Broccoli - ready for picking
Broccoli – ready for picking

Winter may be here but the plants and weeds in my garden have been growing well. The spring bulbs are pushing up their foliage so there is the promise of good things to come. It was lovely to return from holiday to find broccoli, kale, parsley, sage, lettuces and silverbeet all ready for eating. The peas, broad beans and Asian greens that I sowed before we left are coming on well and will soon find their way to the dinner table.


Radishes grow well through the winter
Radishes grow well through the winter

At least we should get some sunny days this month. On the days with no wind, I shall be out in the garden pulling up the weeds. On those wild wet windy days, when I don’t feel like going outside, I shall be making a plan for the spring vegetables and setting up seed trays in the spare bathroom. The garden tools would benefit from some cleaning and oiling so maybe we shall find the time for that too.

Jobs to do in my Ocean Grove garden this month:

  • Plant a bare-rooted cherry tree. I shall probably choose a Stella variety as they are self-fertile and I only have space for 1 tree.
  • Prune the remaining fruit trees (apple, grape and pears).
  • Water the new plants with Seasol.
  • Spray the stone fruit with Kocide to prevent peach-leaf curl and other fungal diseases.
  • Keep ahead of the weeds, especially the grass and oxalis.
  • Tidy up the broccoli plants – remove diseased leaves.
  • Thin out the Asian greens and salad greens that have grown from seed. Use the thinnings to decorate winter salads

Learners Corner

Time to thin out the beetroot
Time to thin out the beetroot

Did you have a go at growing vegetables from seed, inside the house, last month? If you forgot or were not successful, you could try some lettuces or silverbeet this month. Don’t forget to keep them slightly damp by misting the surface. Also remove excess seedlings, if there are crowded. 1.5cm apart is quite close enough.



Broccoli seedlings - ready to pot up
Broccoli seedlings – ready to pot up

If your seeds have germinated and you have thinned them out, they will benefit from some soluble fertiliser when you water them. A half strength solution, applied once a week, should get them growing well. Once they have 4 leaves they can be moved outside to a sunny sheltered position such as a north-facing balcony. Move them outside on a warmish day and bring them back inside for the first night. Be sure to keep them out of the wind. After a week or so, it is a good idea to pot them up into 4cm pots filled with good quality potting soil. Hold them by the leaves when you handle them, as the plants will die if you damage their stems. Water them well with a dilute liquid fertiliser or seaweed solution (Seasol) and they will be ready to plant out in the garden in about a month.

Watch out for aphids and caterpillars. These are best knocked off with fingers or a paintbrush. Kids can help with this! Don’t spray with chemicals, such as pyrethrum, until the plants are much bigger and more robust.

For the Experienced Gardener

Red lettuce likes the cooler weather
Red lettuce likes the cooler weather

If you have been raising lettuce and green vegetables from seed in the greenhouse, they could be ready to plant outside by now. Put them outside on a sunny day, bringing them inside again for the first night. Give them a good soak with a weak soluble fertiliser then plant them out into your prepared bed.

Now is a good time to sow seeds of capsicum, eggplant and chilli in the greenhouse. They can take a few weeks to germinate, unlike tomatoes that come on quickly. It is best to leave tomatoes until next month, if you are planning to grow them outside. If you have space in your greenhouse then by all means start growing them from seed now then you should get some early fruit.

Seeds to sow this month

Asian greens, broad beans, lettuce, parsnip, peas, rocket, watercress, coriander, parsley.

Seedlings to plant out this month

Asian greens, broccoli, endive, kale, lettuce, spring onions, coriander, parsley, natives.

The War Zone

Red and curly kale - it could become rabbit food
Red and curly kale – it could become rabbit food

Aphids can continue to breed through winter although they will slow down with the cold weather. Their presence may indicate that the plants are getting too many nutrients. Slowing down the application of liquid fertilises may solve the problem.

Rabbits are starting to appear in the gardens of Ocean Grove and are nibbling on the tender new growth. They seem to be moving into the town from the beach areas. Other than fencing the area with a rabbit-proof fence and getting a dog, I don’t know of any easy solution to this problem. The baby rabbits seem to be able to pass through very small gaps.

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