Plant growth slows in winter and there are less vegetable types to plant compared with the heady days of spring and summer, but gardening in winter is no less important. Root veges like carrots, beets and parsnips love the cold and will taste sweeter for it, and so will the brussels. Silverbeets and kale come into their reliable own, and I love lettuce and spinach through the cold months. I wish I had been out planting more of all these crops, back in late summer!
Onions can be planted now, as well as (dormant) perennial plants such as fruit trees, vines and brambles. Onions are actually perennials which are grown as annuals; depending on daylength and temperature. This explains why it is so crucial to time your planting in order to get good sized bulbs! This is also why our ever-ready and potato/welsh onions in the garden keep on multiplying! ‘Intermediate Daylength’ cultivars grow best in our part of the world and need a temperature range of 20-25 degrees Celsius at bulb formation to produce good sized bulbs – hotter than that and your onions will be undersized. Too many frosty days and the same fate will befall your crop. Plant too early and your onions will go to seed; too late and there’ll be no time for bulb formation before the weather heats up. But still, give them a try! Sow as seed and then thin, or trim the tops of seedlings to miniimise transplanting shock, or plant ‘sets’ which are small onions, a season old. Bulb size will also reflect the health and size of the plant – aim for vigorous, healthy large plants before bulb setting – another reason to get your timing right.
Now is a fantastic time for the first of several biodynamic applications of horn manure (BD500) and compost preps or manure concentrate – if we get moist conditions. You may wish to follow with a balancing spray of horn silica (BD501) the next morning. Consider an application of biodynamic tree paste after pruning. You can buy this from the BD organisations or make your own from 4 parts cow manure, 2 parts silica sand or diatomaceous earth and 3 parts potting clay or bentonite. Stir into a sloppy paste with either stirred BD500, liquid manure tea, or rainwater and apply with a paintbrush as high as you can reach.
Keep the nutrition up to your growing veges with diluted compost tea, worm juice or seaweed solution – a feed every fortnight or three weeks will mean plants grow on and are better able to defend against pest or fungus attack. To make compost or herb tea – put a handful or two of compost and/or chopped up herbs in a bucket of (warmed, if you have it) water and leave for a couple of days up to a week. Stir every day and when the water has changed color and the herbs/compost no longer look like their original selves, you can draw off some of the liquid, dilute to a weak tea solution (say 1:10) and apply when you water. Use the biodynamic herbs – valerian, chamomile, nettle, dandelion. Comfrey is very beneficial too. Take care to dilute – high potassium levels can burn young seedlings.
Enjoy the winter garden.
Gardening Dates for temperate areas of SE Australia:
Leaf Days: 1-4, 10-12, 19-21, 29-30: bok choi, cabbage, kale, celery, coriander, endive, mibuna, mizuna, orach, rocket, tat soi, leek, lettuce, mustard, silverbeet, chard, spinach, chives, garlic chives, dill, parsley
Fruit Days: 4-6, 12-14, 21-24: broad beans, mustard, peas,
Root Days: 6-8, 14-16, 24-26: Beetroot, carrots, celeriac, kohlrabi, garlic, garlic chives, leek, bunching onion, onion, radish, daikon, swede, turnip,
Flower Days: 8-10, 16-19, 26-29: broccoli, borage, cauliflower,
Moon Opposite Saturn (considered a good date for sowing seeds, applying preps and planting, or 48hrs either side): 9
Node Days (avoid planting if you can): 11, 25
Apogee (moon furthest from earth; less lunar influence):24
Perigee (moon clostest to eath; more lunar influence): 10
New Moon/Full Moon: 17/3
Moon descending: 4-17
Moon ascending: 1-4, 17-30
Apply soil fertilisers, compost: 6-8, 14-16 then next best 1-4, 10-12
Prune, apply tree paste, take cuttings, plant seedlings: 6-8, 14-16
Apply foliar fertilisers: 1-2, 17-19, 26-29 then next best 19-24
Graft: 1-2, 17-19, 26-297
Dates are a guide for these particular crops. Timing will vary from region to region (particularly with climate change) and even within a garden’s own microclimates. Of course, rainfall, weather conditions and your own schedule will influence when you garden.