Now’s the time to plant those edibles, as Sarah Vercoe discovers. Simon from Manawee Garden Centre shares his tips and tricks for successfully growing edibles in winter, even if you’re a self-professed plant killer.
Is now the right time to start a vegetable garden?
Winter is actually a great time of year to start a veggie garden and it’s a lot easier to manage throughout the cooler months; there’s less pest and disease to struggle with; and insects aren’t actively breeding and it’s not as hot, so remembering to water every single day isn’t an issue.
Plants will grow a little slower in the cooler months but that’s a good thing as it enables you to watch them to see how they’re going. A plant will tell you what it needs if you interact with it every day.
Which edibles grow well in winter?
Now is the time to start planting cool season crops, edibles that require a nice long cold period. These include: brassicas like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts cauliflower, collard greens, turnips, pea varieties, silverbeet and carrots. It’s the only time of year you can grow these on the Sunshine Coast.
What about fruit plants?
Citrus are a great fruiting tree to start with. On the Sunshine Coast, we can plant and grow citrus fruit year-round and the cooler months are an ideal time to plant. In most parts here you can also plant stone fruit; the Hinterland is a fantastic region for these varieties. Don’t worry if you’re confined to smaller spaces, citrus do well in a pot too.
What are the best conditions for edibles?
Let the sun shine! Even edibles that require cooler temperatures still need at least 5-6 hours of direct sun each day.
But my number one tip is to prepare before you plant. The soil you grow your edibles in is very important. So before you even head to the shop to buy seeds take time to get the soil right first.
Dig it over and create a rich structure with lots of organic matter and compost. Build a raised bed to create good growing media and drainage if necessary.
Similarly if you want to grow in a pot or container it’s important to use good quality potting mix so the structure is exactly what the plants need.
And be sure to give your edible lots of food. Edibles are hungry plants and churn through nutrients fast.
How can self professed plant-killers successfully grow edibles?
Most people kill plants because they’re either growing the wrong plant at the wrong time or they’re growing the right plant in the wrong location or situation.
Leafy greens and fast growing plants can be harvested regularly so they’re some of the easiest edibles to grow.
These include lettuce, bok choy, pak choy, wombok, spinach; pretty much anything you can use on a regular basis.
They’re also varieties that can tolerate a wide variety of conditions. My advice would be to start with these followed by herbs then move on to more complex veggies when you’re feeling confident.