At last some cold winter weather has arrived. Hopefully there will be enough of it to ensure a good and even flowering of our chill-dependant fruit trees and berries and thus good crops for us to enjoy. We also need this cold to kill off the last of the European wasps that have still been hovering about until now.
After one of the driest Junes on record in southern Tasmania, we desperately need a good soaking to come soon. Luckily my deep hay method has held moisture in the soil but, digging down, areas low in organic matter are bone dry. Have you noticed that soil rich in compost and hummus is much damper? The best way to maintain soil structure and dampness whilst allowing drainage of excess water is to build up the organic matter in your soil.
By also digging in inoculated biochar at a rate of ½ litre / square metre the soil will hold its nutrients even when the rains do finally come, allowing your plants to power away in spring. I recommend everyone attend a biochar workshop asap. They are being regularly held locally. You will learn what biochar is all about, learn to make your own, learn to judge biochar you see for sale and understand why Peter Cundall is going mad about encouraging us to use it!
Many vegetables also improve with frost and snow on them. These include chicories, which sweeten and deepen in colour, indicating maximum nutrition and flavour has arrived. Chards and kales bounce up when released from the weight of frost and snow, and say “Pick me, pick me” when I go out to cut some veg for dinner. Frilly mustard and miners lettuce seem oblivious to the cold and remain pretty and delicious even in the deep, icy shade. Carrots and parsnips sweeten with the cold and will hold over well in the ground during winter.
Winter is the perfect time to make sauerkraut and pickled root vegetables, fresh from the garden. Pickled root vegetables are an integral part of a ploughman’s lunch, with a tasty Tasmanian cheese, fresh, home made sourdough bread and a plate of salad, rich with the reds and greens only available from the winter garden. Lacto-fermented vegetables are, I think, a missing link in modern day lives where preserving has come to mean sterilised vegetables in vinegar etc. The human gut has not caught up with this technology and needs to be fed a gentler, more nourishing diet.
Seaweed in winter
As winter storms in the roaring 40’s send high seas crashing onto the shores of Tasmania, kelp and other sea plants are strewn on the beaches. I heard on the radio that we are allowed to collect seaweed from most beaches at the rate of 100kg / day in Tasmania. Seaweed is heavy, so that is not as much as it sounds. I have some great ideas for using it! Seaweed contains trace elements which we often neglect to think about in our food gardens (and our stomachs).
- Place tubs or large buckets here and there in your garden. Half fill them with seaweed and fill to the top with water. Cover if you like. Keep a ladle nearby. Whenever you see some plants looking a bit weak or off-colour give them a tonic of 1 part seaweed water to 9 parts water, in a watering can. Pour over the leaves.
- Completely cover your asparagus patch with a thick layer of seaweed during winter. Leave the rain and the worms to do the work.
- Seaweed is a wonderful addition to mulch under fruit trees, in the chookyard and add a little to the worm farm.
- Include seaweed in your compost heap.
· Plant out deciduous trees and shrubs.
· Sort your seeds for the coming season
· Get your favourite tomato seeds before they are sold out.
· Sprinkle fire ash judiciously right out to the drip line of fruit trees.
· Divide or plant rhubarb, globe artichokes, strawberries and asparagus
· Take cuttings of black mulberries now as they root easily and will grow away in spring
Books for Fireside Inspiration
Around the World in 80 Plants: Stephen Barstow (the world’s most loved 80 perennial edible plants. Incredibly interesting and well written.)
Permaculture: Sepp Holzer (A fascinating and very individual approach to using your land. I cannot put it down!)
Four Season Harvest: Eliot Coleman (Using your climate to your best advantage. Fabulous for Tasmania.)
Plant buddies… the very best companion planting guide I have seen. Type in your tree / veg / berry etc and it tells you what to plant with it.
Incredible Edible Todmorden…. A town in England that is leading the world in every way in regards to public food spaces, egg maps…. and just plain everything!
Crop Swap Cygnet and Surrounds…. Just launched. More than 40 locals attended. Also join on facebook.
Lovely Greens… 30+ ideas for using stick and twigs in the garden. Wow! Check it out.