Top 5 – Reasons to garden in winter

This post comes with the proviso that your daytime winter temperatures are above freezing.  If they’re below I think behaving like a bear is probably more appropriate…but then what do I know never having experienced that sort of winter.

1. It gets you outside.  I feel better when I spend time outdoors but sometimes in winter it can be hard find a reason to be there.  I tend to exercise at the gym/pool because they have childcare.  Social events tend to be indoors, the lure of the TV and couch are strong, even Etihad Stadium shuts its roof so it can be hard to find time to be outside.  Gardening provides both the need and the motivation to put on a jumper or two and get dirty.

2. Far fewer pests – The cabbage white butterflies have gone away, the aphids are in reasonable numbers, the leaf miners don’t seem as bad and the all those little green sap sucking bugs that I don’t know the names of have moved on.  But best of all you don’t get attacked by mozzies whilst harvesting your evening salad.  Mozzies are mosquitoes for those of you who don’t insist on shortening every word and adding an ‘ie’ on the end as we Aussies do.

3. Brassicas & Broad Beans - There are some crops that just grow better in winter (provided you’re gardening in a temperate climate).  Most brassicas for instance are far better suited to winter than summer growing.  Ditto parsley, chervil and best of all - broad beans.  If you don’t garden in winter then you’d miss two of the best things about home grown – freshly picked broccoli and broad beans.  Yum! (Incidentally the above photo was taken last year – my plants are nowhere near that big yet.)

4. Flowering natives – A huge variety of Australian natives flower in winter.  Eremophilas, Correas, Pimeleas, Grevilleas, and Hardenbergias all have varieties which produce beautiful blooms in winter, and there are many more.  Getting in amongst them and weeding, tiding and ensuring they look their best is one of the most rewarding parts of winter gardening.

5. Preparation- If you want good summer crops this is the time to start preparing some of your beds.  Both Louise at Garden Glut and Andrea at Harvest with Glee have started their tomato bed preparation and have some great advice.   Louise favours: ”stripping all the leaves off the brassicas that are finished and spreading them over the soil,  adding any spent snow pea straw, adding compost or manure and then topping with grass clipping and letting it stew for a good while.”  Whilst Andrea keeps: “adding leaf mulch, grass clippings, chook  and horse manure and turning it over every now and then”.   Whatever your secret of success is winter is probably the time to apply it.

Winter not your thing?  Then head over to The New Goodlife and find out why we should all be vegetarian.

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20 Responses to Top 5 – Reasons to garden in winter

  1. bumblelush says:

    I do look forward to broccoli in the winter, and no mosquitoes! (I have heard the term mozzies before!!)

    Do you use/recommend any ground cover crops over the winter?

    • Liz says:

      I grow quite a bit of watercress which tends to spread very nicely indeed, and tastes great. It does need to be kept reasonably damp though. Áre you looking for something to keep the weeds at bay or improve the soil? If the later then lots of broad (fava) beans grown pretty close together and then cut down and dug into the soil just as they start to flower would work well on both fronts. You could also keep some growing for the beans too but then you lose the nitrogen fixing qualities as much of it will go back into producing the beans.

  2. Mark Willis says:

    If only… What about when you have six months of really awful, cold, wet and windy weather to cope with?? [Solution - emigrate to Australia.]

    • Liz says:

      The solution is perfect, although having said that I did quite enjoy gardening in England in winter in a masochistic kind of way…

  3. We at least we don’t have ‘mozzies’ although I did end up with a leg covered in ant bites last week and also think we have other biting minibeasts that lie in wait especially for me!

  4. Sarah says:

    You make Melbourne winters sound very inviting! Feels like summer daytime temperatures are barely above freezing here at the moment – this is the first year I’ve had the leaves on squash plants damaged by hailstones.

    • Liz says:

      If the truth be known I wrote this post partially to convince myself as I am very much looking forward to Spring but don’t tell anyone….We had hail last summer too – it can be really destructive can’t it?

  5. Louise says:

    Lovely native photos. That eremophila is stunning. I have some lovely correas , little red very local Sydney spidery grevillias and great big orange banksia cones all flowering at the moment.

    I too love the reduced pests at this time of the year, but wonder what your winter parsley secret is , mine are looking very unhappy. It might actually be the very wet weather here.

    • Liz says:

      I love banksias I would love some more – I only have one in at the moment but it hasn’t got to a flowering size yet (if it ever does – its a brown banksia and they can be a bit temperamental). I think the thing with winter parsley is to get them to a reasonable size before the cold weather hits. I planted the well performing plants late summer from memory – in fact it may have been earlier than that even. The plants I put in more recently are struggling along slowly.

  6. Julie says:

    Our heat wave here is making me wish it was winter! The lack of heat and humidity in the winter is definitely a plus along with the lack of garden pests. I need to get some broad bean seeds- I’ve never grown them, but that sounds like a yummy addition to winter crops.

    • Liz says:

      I really enjoy them when they come. It such a short period they are in season and I look forward to it every year. Having said that I do get a bit sick of them by the end of the crop some years…

  7. Andrea says:

    Have to agree with all your reasons for gardening in Winter, love rugging up and spending the afternoon or if lucky the whole day “pottering” around. Making new garden beds, adding manure, planting seeds,weeding, raking paths and having a bonfire ! Enjoying the beautiful native flowers and little birds visiting too………..

  8. Kirsty says:

    Had a brief moment in the garden this week, spreading compost and planting pansies and cornflowers, the little one helped and it was beautiful to be amongst the plants and soil. The worms are amazing in winter. I have to confess these moments have been fewer than I’d like, the weather has been pretty consistently wet and bitterly cold, not something for our european friends to lust after.

    • Liz says:

      It has been wet and cold hasn’t it? Having said that not nearly as wet or cold as they experience so I think we can still inspire envy (although I might reserve the envy for Melbourne as the Macedon Ranges are generally a lot cooler aren’t they? Every time I go to mum & dads the temperature drops 4 degrees between here and their place).

  9. Nina says:

    Excellent reasons to garden in winter! Especially the lack of pests. Sigh. You’ve reminded me that they will be the bane of my life in just a few short months.

    I had serious broadbean envy until I read that it was a photo from last season. Phew! I planted mine not too long after you did and I worried mine were seriously stunted (much like my kale!). I still have some broadbeans in the freezer that I’ve been hanging on to. Time to let go and use them up, I think.

    • Liz says:

      My broadbeans don’t seem particularly vigorous this year, but perhaps I’m just being impatient as ever. Either way though fresh beans seem a long way off.

  10. Diana says:

    The garden look much better in winter than summer for us here. Sometime I think it is kind of funny where other cold places don’t grow plants in winter but we have many perished plants in summer. I am enjoying the natives flowering too.

    • Liz says:

      My plants are in a bit of a go slow at the moment and there are a few things which aren’t appreciating the cold nights so I have to day i’ll be glad when Spring comes.

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