Grow Yourself a Daily Winter Harvest

spring greens

Achieving a daily harvest year round, takes years of practice. I remember the first year I grew all my own carrots. Pride. And the year of the onion, that was solid. Potatoes have been a recent achievement, but that’s only because all the teenage mouths have left the building. Year of the broccoli – so proud …. see what I mean, you’ll be at this thing a goodly long time.

One foot in front of the other – just make a start. My best advice is to choose one crop and go all out to achieve a steady flow of that one thing for a year. Don’t try to do everything – little and often will get you there.

Achieving a daily winter harvest takes a little more fore thought than a summer one. That’s because we need to bust a move and get our crops in before it cools down – the hour is now!

The Staples

spring kale

These 3 are my staples. The backbone of my winter kitchen and our winter wellness. Though they are humble and ordinary, don’t under estimate them! These are the winter crops to go for if you don’t have much room or time. Plant them this month, and pick them all winter and spring long.

  1. Parsley. For me it has to be Italian flat leaf, but curly or flat – choose the one that floats your boat. Is there a more nourishing, low maintenance, go-with-everything, herb? 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.
  2. Silverbeet, Chard, Perpetual Beet, Kale. Beneficient leafy greens! Just like our friend parsley – very little work to do here, a tonne of nutrition and they fit into every wintery meal. Plant them into lovely soil and mulch well. Perk them up with a monthly liquid feed and keep picking the outside leaves to keep new fresh ones coming on. Drop the leaves on the ground as mulch.
  3. Celery. We’re diving into divisive territory here, I know not all of you will agree with me about celery, but doesn’t every stock, soup or wintery slow cook need some?! The trick to juicy stems is to plant into good compost and mulch well. I make a pile of goodness in summer and plant into it in Autumn. Mulch is key as is good soil moisture. Check your soil weekly. Celery is very good friends with seaweed, so make up a watering can full and pour it over every week or so. Side dress with rotten manure or seaweed. Pick the outside stalks regularly with a twist and pull, to keep new growth coming on. I grow mine in the greenhouse – going undercover prevents rust.

Brassicas

February planted brassicas under insect mesh

In order to eat brassica’s autumn through spring I start planting late January and keep going in my little and often way until May. Cabbage whites are pesky until March or April and must be managed. The simplest and most effective way is to avoid them by putting up insect mesh.

Plant a mixture each time to keep things varied at the dinner table. Include some slow to mature with some faster ones to stagger your harvest. This is where sowing from seed comes into it’s own because you can sow two of this and three of that – whatever you need.

If you don’t have time to sow seed then have I got cool news for you! Mitre 10 and the Fielding farmers market are selling Awapuni seedlings pick and mix styles. Prick out the vegetable seedlings you want from their bulk trays into the provided cardboard box. Only $5 per little box and no plastic! Kudos to you guys.

broccoli bed

Plant a few slow …

Most cabbage and broccoli take about 75 days from transplant to table. Variety plays a big part here – so read the info on the seed packet ok. (The smaller hybridised “mini” ones are of course alot quicker). Cauliflower is longer again at about 90 days and Brussel sprouts longer still at 120 (they really need to be in by now).

… with a few quick

Chinese cabbage, pak choi or bok choy are ready in about 6 weeks from transplant and are such a handy stir fry or steamed green. As is Italian Broccoli Rabe which is a slightly bitter, shooting broccoli (I love it!)

For example

Let’s make a virtual bed to show you what I mean.

Plant out 2 cauliflower, 3 broccoli, 2 cabbages, 1 Raab and 6 bok choy for a very useful staggered harvest in about 1.3 x 3m worth of bed. Planting or sowing a variety of small saladings (eg: land cress, corn salad, miners lettuce, rocket, coriander, winter lettuce) + beetroot, around the edge of the bed makes the most of the space.

broccoli harvest

The bok choy will be ready first. When they come out, plant more saladings. Next up you’ll start harvesting raab, followed by heading broccoli. Once the main head is cut from the broccoli it’ll keep providing good sized shoots for months on end. (Eat the stalk as well – broccoli is such great bang for your buck!) Then you’ll be eating cabbage + broccoli shoots, followed by the cauliflower and still more broccoli shoots!

Any gaps in harvest will be filled by your handy dandy leafy greens, parsley, root crops and celery.

broccoli in flower

If you planted a second bed up a month later, you’ll be moving into that one as the first bed fades away. Let it flower for the bees and beneficial insects.

Rootcrops + Leeks

beetroot

Last but not least – rootcrops because you cannot have winter without them! Carrots, beetroot and parsnips are my go to’s, but you of course, plant what you love. In my cool mountain zone, I sow these mid to late summer so they are fully grown by winter. Make this job a priority!

Sow them after a heavy feeder because they don’t need any fertiliser. Though if you are on sandy soil or heavy clay you’ll benefit from the addition of a fine layer of compost. No storage stress with winter roots, they keep beautifully in natures fridge.

leek harvest

It’s super handy having leeks coming on in a staggered fashion as opposed to one big lot all ready at once. My first lot goes in, in January, another in February and another March. Leeks are hungry! So grow them in really good soil with compost added and a bit of rotten manure as a side dress once they get about 30cm. Regular liquid feeding supports good sized crops. Perennial leeks are a great option for small gardens.

Comments

  1. Great advice, as ever, Kath! Can you tell me, is Italian Broccoli Rabe the same as (purple) sprouting broccoli?

    I’ve still got tomatoes ripening so am trying to plant what I can around them. I need more beds!! There will be more grass lawn carved up this winter for sure.

    I planted silverbeet in early summer and it has been cropping heavily. Will those plants last the winter or should I plant more?

    Courgettes were a waste of time for me this year – they took up so much real estate but we have only had a handful. Very disappointing. I think I will rip those up and get the winter vege in.

    • No they are different beasts – purple sprouting are yum but take forever and ever to shoot unlike good old rabe quick out of the blocks! Courgettes are funny old things, a kind of middle of the road between hungry and not – they need good compost but not too much extra or its big leaf and not many fruits, go too poor and not productive either! Also what a crap summer for us, plays a big part. Yeah tough love is good, important even at this crucial time of year – whip them out and start anew 🙂 Silverbeet should carry right along for sure. The only thing that may rock its world and shoot it off to seed is if we get extremes of temperature. If its an important crop for you could always throw a few in for insurance beneath your fruit trees or around the edges. Love your ever expanding vegie patch/ diminishing lawn styles.

  2. Hi Kath
    Thank you for such an informative and interesting read! I’m glad to say I have the staples in already, and still have some space for saladings and winter mesclun. I think I’ll give the rabe a try. I was wondering – can I harvest bok choi a leaf at a time, or do I need to pull up the whole plant? I like brassicas that don’t head (squeamish when it comes to finding hidden livestock, especially when they’re cooked!).

    • Give bok choy a go at pick and come again – love a new idea! And fair enough avoiding cooked caterpillars that’s why I’m in love with insect mesh, its heaven sent not having to manage/ find caterpillars and their poop throughout. I hope you enjoy the rabe as much as I do!

      • Thanks Kath – I’ll let you know!

      • Helen Hancox says:

        Is insect mesh instead of or as well as the monthly spray of need oil and EM?

        • Insect mesh keeps the cabbage whites off your plants ok Helen – ergo no caterpillars munching brassicas. EM is disease prevention, builds beneficial microbes so its like a monthly tonic. Neem is used as needed for sucking insects like aphids, it can be mixed with EM if needed. Hope this helps!.

  3. carina chambers says:

    Hi Kath,
    re courgettes and lack of space, I have grown mine up a circular reinforcing structure, also cucumbers, works a treat. Had a bumper crop of both in Hawkes Bay.
    Love your newsletters, so easy to get around an so informative!
    Enjoy your coffee,
    Carina Chambers HB

    • Oh goody – the more crops that can go up the better for space – and health I find too. Thanks for the coffee!

      • Helen Hancox says:

        I’d happily buy you a coffee a month – this information is GOLD. Please email me your bank account details

  4. Olive Mills says:

    I have a flower & veg gardens full of white fly also the weeds. I have been not so good a gardener. Now I am paying the price. I am also cleaning up flower gardens. What is the best way to bed them down for winter, &do I put Amy fertilizerdown.

    • Lots of options for you here Olive! It depends on what weeds you’ve got. The least labour is to cover your bed with something like a tarp or old carpet and leave it there over winter to kill off all the weeds. In spring remove the cover and spread 2cm of good compost and plant away.

  5. Lesley McGregor says:

    Hi Kay

    Where do you find broccoli rabe?

    Many thanks
    Lesley

  6. Olive Mills says:

    Hi thank you for your advice will do Husband has sprayed all my gardens in need oil& nature’s way insect & mite spray then used target. I do hope my garden survivessel as I do not spray .I will have to wait & see what happens.