Winter presents endless possibilities for enjoyment in the garden. We all feel the cool nights and perhaps frosty mornings in our Burnett gardens, closely followed by warm and pleasant days. These are perfect for growing winter vegetables and herbs. Silverbeet and spinach, quick growing Asian greens, kale, spicy rocket as well as broccoli, cabbage and crunchy year round lettuce. As the saying goes “there’s nothing like the taste of home grown” and I believe this to be true of tomatoes especially. I have wonderful memories of helping my Grandfather pick his tomatoes. I can still hear him telling me to twist them from the laden plant and can see us happily walking back up to the farm house with our bucket of bright red produce.
Gardens both big and small can offer us memories and more. My favourite flower is the French Lavender (Lavendula dentata) and have it planted among herbs, shrubs and trees. They not only look and smell beautiful with their dented grey foliage and purple flowers but are wonderful at attracting and bringing the bees. This flower also reminds me of my Grandmother, an avid gardener who would pick small bunches of French Lavender as a fragrant gift for me to take home.
Winter also presents us with opportunities to work on tidying our gardens and plan for the warmer seasons ahead. We can enrich our soils with composts, manures, rock minerals and any ingredients capable of adding humus to the existing soil. Healthy soils will not only feed your plants and conserve moisture they will do wonders for your gardens vigour, microbial activity and encourage strong and healthy plant growth.
After 17 years of gardening here in the South Burnett and coming from a frost free coastal area I quickly learnt to stop the temptation of heavy pruning until the last of the frost had finished. By pruning too early I was exposing the young and tender regrowth to further frost damage. Instead I needed to leave the older frosted branches to perform their important job of protection, even though they seemed unsightly. As you can imagine my early winter gardening days here on the farm were woven with trial and error, an experience which has given me the gift of hindsight.
Warm up this winter by spending as much time in the garden as you can. Not only are we breathing and making the most of our fresh country air but importantly getting our muscles moving. Many of you are growing produce now whether on a large scale or small, the very fact of growing certainly gives us pride and satisfaction. If the produce can be shared or swapped with others it makes it even more worthwhile. Sharing produce, cuttings, flowers or garden conversation with family, friends and others makes our days so much better. Whatever your gardening happenings are I’m with you and look forward to my fortnightly writings for this column. Until then fellow gardeners “Happy Gardening” kind regards from your local gardening enthusiast.