Some Winter garden tasks!
I love the brisk slap of winter. Its chilly arrival signals an array of early winter tasks while bringing about a resting phase in many insects and plants (although the warmth of May has convinced my young fruit trees to hold on to their precious solar panel leaves a little longer). So shake the bugs out of your water proofs as here are some tasks to get you flushed from over-clad garden exertion.
- Originating in acidic forest leaf litter strawberries are shallow rooted and are large consumers of nutrients. If your strawberries have been in the same location for two seasons I recommend that you select young, healthy ones to transplant to a new location pre-prepared with compost and cow manure. Microclimates greatly influence fruit ripening so select your new site/s with careful consideration of sun exposure. Afternoon sun will bring you early season strawberries and morning sun is ideal for late season. (I have three strawberry plots and managed to pick strawberries from October through until May this year). Water transplanted plants well and top dress with blood and bone and mulch with brown pine needles.
- Dig the last of your potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and racoon for yacon. If you are not sure of your potato varieties propensity to storage, as a guide check the tenacity of their skin. High yielding Otway red potatoes have thick skins and store well in carpet covered hessian bags in a dry, cool, even temperature location. Broken fridges/freezers also work well if you drill through the seal to facilitate air flow. Select the largest of your dug Jerusalem artichoke tubers for consumption and return the others back to the soil. Jerusalem artichokes do not store well and should be used quickly to experience the best flavour (see my web site for recipe ideas). I like to place my artichokes in a less than favourable growing environment to limit their speed. Yacon are a dahlia like tuber which in the north east facing microclimate that I have them positioned stay green all year. They taste a little like a sweet potato with a different after taste and grow easily in our climate. I sourced my original plant from Diggers (www.digger.com.au). Always use a fork to dig tubers as this decreases the likelihood of damage.
- Select a north east facing plot and sow early broad beans, carrots, leeks and kohl rabi. Anyone who has seen my garden knows that I plant in patches or buttons (forgive me all you parallel line advocates). Each seed needs different treatment. For broad beans deeply dig the patch, push seeds to a thumb’s depth into the uneven terrain then rake to smooth the soil surface to assist with even water penetration. Scatter old vegetable debris (such as the stems of plants which have summer seeded) over the patch. I find this helps prevent the beans from breaking off at the base during our September winds. To sow carrot seed deep dig a patch, rake the soil to remove debris and achieve a fine tilth, lightly compact the soil, evenly scatter the seed and sprinkle lightly with sieved dry cow manure (grate dry pats through fly wire) to retain moisture around the seeds. Kohlrabi are more forgiving, simply rake a patch sow the seed and sprinkle with soil. As I let some of my leeks go to seed, I simply remove the seed head and give it a shallow burial. In this way I end up with lots of baby leek buttons providing delicious foraging opportunities and protective companion plant friendly microclimates.