An Easy, Nourishing Winter Food Garden

Broccoli shoots and leafy greens for breakfast

Today is especially for those of you who dream of eating a fresh picked bowl of goodness, like this one – every day, but dont have much time to garden.

You can do it, if you focus on the most efficient crops – one’s that are highest nutrition for the least effort.

Here’s my nourishing winter collection for busy people: Broccoli shoots, quick leafy’s, long lived leafy’ and herbs + weeds. Throw in a potato or kumara and there’s a complete meal!

Broccoli Shoots

broccoli shoots
Broccoli gives and gives

Broccoli is the easiest, quickest and most productive brassica to grow. Easier than cabbage, heaps faster than cauliflower, and waaaaay more productive than both on account of all the side shoots that come after the main head is cut.

  • The main head is ready to harvest about 12 weeks after transplant.
  • A bunch of quick leafy greens planted at the same time as the broccoli, will fill the harvest gap while you wait.

Quick Leafy’s

newly planted bok choy in homemade mulch

Bok choy is so easy and fast! In warmer weather, they’re ready about 6 weeks from transplant. Plant along the outside edge for easy harvest. They team well around broccoli plants – by time they are ready to harvest, the broccoli is filling the space. Pots are also viable for these small rooted crops.

Extend the harvest by slicing the leaves off when ready, leaving the root in and another lot of smaller leaves will follow. Plant all winter long as long as you don’t get snowed on.

There are loads of quick leafy’s out there – Pak Choi, Komatsuna, Gai Lan, Landcress, Mizuna, Rocket, Coriander or Corn Salad. Experiment and find ones you like to eat. Leave the ones that grow well for you, to go to seed for an easy continuity.

A mix of greens not only makes dinner interesting, but brings much needed variety to your gut biome – a simple way to keep you in peak performance. Get some greens into every meal and you’ll soon start to notice a skip in your step!

Long Lived Leafy’s

cavalo nero, bishops flower, borage and dahlias

Perpetual Beet, Chard, Silverbeet, Cavalo Nero, NZ Spinach, Endive, Chicory and Kale’s – beneficent leafy greens! So easy to grow, so abundant and jamming with vitality and goodness. Grow a big variety and fit them into breakfast, lunch and tea.

As long as soil is good, plant without amendments though a little compost or vermicastings never goes astray. Mulch, goes without saying.

Plant where you can easily access for picking – they thrive when the biggest, outside leaves are picked regularly. Any leaves which are too ratty for the kitchen, simply pluck off and lay down as mulch, or feed the chooks, or add to the compost pile.

Plant in Autumn while its still warm and you’ll be harvesting in about 6 – 8 weeks, all through winter, spring and beyond.

Herbs + Weeds

Harvest of parsley, chickweed, rocket, lettuce
Rocket, Chickweed, Parsley, Lettuce, Calendula + Fennel

Herbs are as good as a vitamin pill, maybe even better. Keep your cells strong and immunity high by eating and drinking homegrown herbs every day. Fresh picked is the business, because that way you capture the full nutrient load.


Parsley is humble I know, but the easiest, most nourishing, low maintenance, go-with-everything, herb. A garden essential. Plant this month and pick regularly for salads, pestos and on top every meal. I have at least 6 plants on the go at any one time. For long lived plants, it’s better to pick a little from each rather than a lot from one.


Did you know that nasturtium flowers are a natural antibiotic?! They contain as much vitamin c as parsley and more benefits besides. They taste a little spicy and a little sweet. I love eating that bold colour! Pretty up your plates, or do as I do and, nibble as you walk on by.



If you are lucky enough to have chickweed or dandelion, puha, purslane or nettle, let them flourish and harvest regularly for salads and sandwiches. Weeds are the ultimate in nourishment + zero maintenance – its a kind of madness that we hate on them and spray and ‘weed’ them out. They’re our helpers and our friends, bringing us the nutrition that’s so desperately lacking in modern food. Fall in love with edible weeds!


  1. Carol Wilson says

    If you purchase a pack of plants or 6 in a punnet, can those not being planted be left for weeks while you plant out 2 per week?

    • Good question! Brassicas are flexible this way – just pot them into the next sized pot and keep them watered while you await room to be freed up in the garden. Another option is to go online to Awapuni nureries and get their brassica mix bundle 🙂

  2. Hello Kath,

    Thank you so much for your blog and your book! I’m learning so much and loving my garden time.

    I have a couple of big picture questions for you (if you don’t mind?). I’m wondering how much time you spend in your garden? Do you grow everything your family eats aside from staples and meat? And if you’re the main cook at home too? I would love a bit more into how your impressive food growing fits in with your whole lifestyle.

    I’m home with my 2 year old mostly, just working part time outside the home. We’re just down the road from you in Ōtaki. This summer season I put in about 35m2 of vege beds (based on Kay Baxter’s beginner gardener booklet). It’s been great and I’ve learned a lot but there are parts that are less satisfying… eg I find it hard to make the best use of my veges. I don’t love cooking and my partner who is a great cook prefers to follow his cravings as opposed to getting creative with whatever I’ve grow lots of. Hopefully as I get better at growing tastier produce, the hubby will be more interested in them! This inflation might help too haha. I’d love to find the perfect book of seasonal recipes for nz that are easy and tasty, but I think I just need to build up my own seasonal favourites? And lastly I’ve been growing a selection of heritage vege in the beginner gardener pack that koanga offers (so grateful not to have to plan everything in my first year), but it might work better for us if I grow more of what we regularly buy from the supermarket, at least to start.

    Any thoughts or tips would be appreciated!

    So much gratitude for your writing.


    • What a great question. Speaks to the heart of growing a food garden.
      A huge part of this journey is shifting paradigms to honoring the nutrient density of homegrown, though less ‘perfect’ looking food. This food is so very nourishing for our cells – hydrating and feeding them, keeping us whole and well, our cells in strong communication with one another.
      Yes, growing the food you actually eat is a great way to start – the humble ordinary things turn out to be the most useful. You wont make your kid/ hubby love heritage vege just cos its good for them 🙂 Grow the things you love, relax into hybrids where needed and transition to new tastes over time.
      A habit I got into that made a huge difference was keeping the fridge/ pantry in a healthy cycle. I check my fresh produce every day and compost any gooey bits and pull out onto the bench that which must be used. Simple as – stew fruit or make a quick compote and my favourite way to quickly take care of vege that doesnt store well or is about to hit its used by, is roasting. Its amazing how useful roasted vegies are – frittatas, salads, omelettes, cakes even. You will build up these ideas over time. I recommend Nicola Galloways blog/ book for useful NZ garden to table recipes.
      We are at the opposite end of life to you – no kids home and when they do return are helpful adults. Take it easy. One step at a time. Most of all enjoy the ride. K x

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