Easy winter gardening

By Sarah O'Neil

Hearty soups can be made for winter with ingredients you have grown.
Hearty soups can be made for winter with ingredients you have grown.

Spring is the kind of season you find yourself doing a lot of digging, weeding and general hard work in chilly weather.

It leaves you longing for a hot soak at the end of the day and a wee tipple to warm your bones back up. But the greater reward is in the satisfaction of a job well done and the knowledge you have set the season up with a good solid foundation.

Summer isn't as hard work, however just nipping out to the garden for a tomato can have you sweating.

Once you brave the elements, you find yourself with a mountain of produce that needs processing into jams and pickles.

The amazing flavour of the fresh produce and the bounty of a preserved harvest makes all the effort worthwhile.

Autumn is a season not often met with joy by the gardener as it brings about the demise of an abundant growing season that has kept keen gardeners out of mischief for months.

Autumn has gardeners packing up the garden and clearing things away. If it wasn't for its soft, gentle descent into the cold of winter it would be considered the worst season for bringing about the end of the good times.

Winter on the other hand may seem like the harshest season on the gardening calendar.

The garden is mostly barren, except for a few hardy brassicas, the odd carrot and parsnip, leeks, onions and garlic. Aside from the onion and garlic, which can be planted mid-winter, most of the crops were planted months ago and don't need a lot of attention. Even the weeds are on a go slow. But it is also really quite cold, wet and miserable.

Getting stuck into the garden in this season isn't the most pleasant experience.

But all is not lost for the keen gardener.

Winter can be filled with all things gardening without requiring weary muscles at the end of the day.

The fruits of your labours from the previous season that had been lovingly stored away can now be enjoyed.

Hearty soups loaded with all you have grown will warm the soul. Sweetcorn stored in the freezer can bring sunshine to a gloomy day.

The flavour of jam spread thickly over hot toast can transport you back to the summer garden on warmer days.

A good garden is a well-planned garden The time on your hands normally spent outdoors can be used well indoors for the good of your garden next season.

A common mistake made in spring is the plants are often assembled on the whim of the gardener, purchased on impulse at the garden centre or the result of over-enthusiastic seed sowing and are all destined for the garden, irrespective of the space available.

Tiny seedlings are then popped into the garden cheek by jowl. The problem with this is there is often no room for the plants to grow and flourish and the resulting harvest is nowhere near as prolific as it could have been, had a little pre-planning be undertaken long before any soil was turned.

Gather together all the seed packets you have acquired over the years and have a good sort through.

Share any duplicates with friends or relatives. Get rid of any that are beyond the expiry date, unless it is something you really want to use.

It isn't worth the worry of waiting for seeds to come up for the sake of an old packet worth a few dollars.

Once you have sorted through the packets, you will have narrowed down the list of things you want to grow in your garden.

Decide if there is anything missing from your list that you'd really like to grow, or which aged packets really need to be replaced.

Then measure up your garden and draw it out on to graph paper or use one of the great software programmes available to actually plan your garden. Look into what you want to grow and really pay attention to how much space the full-grown plant will actually need. Space your plants on your plan and move them about until you feel they are in the right place.

Remember, tall plants at the back, short ones at the front, sweetcorn grows in a block and if you need to harvest daily, pop it in a more convenient location.

You may find you can't fit everything in, so will either need to turn to containers or even extend your garden to make room.

Once you finalise your plans, keep them somewhere safe and when spring comes use them as a planting guide and try not to squish in anything not on the list.

Time spent now on organising how you will grow your garden will reward you with healthy plants and a bountiful harvest next season.

Sarah is a celebrated garden blogger, speaker and author. Her books The Good Life and Play in the Garden are available now.

On the web: www.sarahthegardener.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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