Achieving a daily winter harvest takes a little more fore thought than a summer one. That's because we need to bust a move and get our crops in before it cools down - the hour is now! Here's my easy plan.
These four crops are the backbone of my winter kitchen and our winter wellness. Though they are humble and ordinary, don't under estimate them! These are the winter crops to go for if you don't have much room or time. Plant them this month so you can pick them all winter and spring long.
- Parsley. Is there a more nourishing, low maintenance, go-with-everything, herb? I have at least 6 plants on the go at any one time. For long lived plants, it's better to pick a little from each rather than a lot from one.
- Silverbeet, Chard or Kale. Beneficent leafy greens! Just like our friend parsley – easy peasy, a tonne of nutrition and they fit into every wintry meal. Plant them into lovely soil and mulch well. Perk them up with a monthly liquid feed and keep picking the outside leaves to keep new fresh ones coming on.
- Celery. I know not all of you agree with me about celery, but doesn't every stock, soup or wintry slow cook need some?! The trick to juicy stems is to plant into good compost and mulch well. I make a pile of compost in summer and plant my celery into it in Autumn. Mulch is key, as is good soil moisture. Celery loves seaweed, so pour over some liquid feed every week or so or lay some beneath the mulch. Twist and pull off the outside stalks regularly to keep new ones coming on.
- Carrots. Direct sow them now so that by time the soil is cold they’re fully grown.
Brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauli, bok choy) are a super food! Fresh picked, they are full of vital nutrients to help us stave off colds and flu. I plant a few each month from August through November so that we can eat them daily winter/ spring long. Plant a mixture of slow to mature with some faster ones to stagger your harvest and keep dinner interesting.
Let's make a virtual bed to show you what I mean.
Plant out two cauliflower, three broccoli, two cabbages, 1 raab and six bok choy for a very useful staggered harvest in about 1.3 x 3m worth of bed. Plant or sow a variety of small saladings (eg: land cress, corn salad, miners lettuce, rocket, coriander, winter lettuce) + beetroot, around the edge of the bed to make the most of the space.
The bok choy will be ready first. After they are harvested, plant more saladings. Next up you'll start harvesting raab, followed by heading broccoli. Once the main head is cut from the broccoli it'll keep providing good sized shoots for months on end. (Eat the stalk as well - broccoli is such great bang for your buck!) Next comes cabbage + broccoli shoots, followed by the cauliflower + still more broccoli shoots!
Any gaps in harvest will be filled by your handy dandy leafy greens, parsley, root crops and celery.
If you plant a second mixed brassica bed a month later, you'll be moving into that one as the first bed starts to flower. Let it go, the bees and beneficial insects adore these nectar rich flowers.