Winter doesn't have to be a barren season in the veggie garden. Many vegetables don't just grow through winter, they thrive.
Crops that love the cooler months include root vegetables - carrots, parsnips, and turnips; the leafy greens -kale, chard, silver beet; cruciferous vegies - broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
Plants will need enough time to establish themselves before the cold temperatures really set in. In colder regions, consider using cold frames or plastic tunnels to extend the growing season and protect tender young seedlings from frost.
Winter foliage growth is much slower, so it's important to give plants a solid foundation to begin with.
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Before planting, ensure that your soil is well prepared with nutrient rich compost or other organic matter to provide the necessary nutrients to sustain plant growth.
It's also wise to add a layer of mulch to prevent soil erosion and maintain even soil temperatures.
While winter vegetables are hardier and more resilient than summer crops, they are still susceptible to damage from extreme cold, frost and strong winds.
To protect young plants install frost blankets, row covers or cloches. Cloches are a common form of protection for seedlings, and they can be constructed from a range of materials. The most common type is made from a series of wire hoops that are placed over the developing seedlings and covered with a clear polyethylene material, or other type of plastic, to form a protective tunnel.
These are usually left in place for several weeks while plants become established.
Covers serve several functions. First they provide a physical barrier between the plants and potential bird, animal, or insect attack. Second, they reduce the damaging effects of wind, frost and hail, giving the seedlings the best possible start to the season.
An alternative to covering an entire row of seedlings is to protect individual plants. This can be achieved with a simple rummage through the recycling bin to collect old plastic milk cartons and clear plastic drink bottles.
Cut the base off these and place the top portion over the seedlings, ensuring the container is pushed firmly into the soil to keep the cover in place - voila! You have your own mini greenhouse. This will protect seedlings from the elements until established and covers can be easily removed for recycling later.
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