This shouldn’t come as a surprise but in case you weren’t already in the know, it’s definitely time to start planting all your winter vegetables. Lifehacker Australia chats with Chloe Thomson of gardening and cooking show, The Gardenettes, about what you should be growing in these chillier months.
What are the best veggies to grow in winter?
To reiterate, as time is of the essence, Thomson believes you should most definitely be prioritising planting your veggies. In case you’re not sure what grows well when it’s not warm and sunny, she’s given us a breakdown to help you decide what you’d love to grow and use in your cooking.
“Now, if you’ve only got a small space and or if you want something that’s ready to peak and harvest quickly and easily, which is pretty much something that everyone wants right now, you can’t go past the leafy green veggies,” Thomson explained.
“So leafy greens are things like silver beets, spinach, kale, Asian greens like bok choy and pack joy noodle, and then even lettuce, they all get lumped into the leafy greens category. And the thing I love about these is that you can buy them as seedlings, you pop them in the ground, they grow really quickly, and you don’t have to harvest the whole plant.”
And what she means by the last bit is you can take just a few leaves and add it to your stir fry or whatever else you might be cooking for a delicious dinner. You don’t need to worry about spoiling the entire plant if you decide to pick off three or four leaves.
But if you’re looking for variety, there are plenty of other vegetables to take your pick from. Thomson said it’s also a great time to plant any of the brassica crops. These are things like your broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, even brussels sprouts.
“Although these take a little longer to harvest, there are neat tricks you can use to quicken the process,” Thomson said.
“For instance, you could grow a sprouting broccoli, so they actually form almost like the little miniature block broccoli floret or a broccolini floret rather than the big head of broccoli. So they’re a bit faster to harvest than, say, a traditional big headed broccoli.”
If you’re thinking that’s all you can grow because winter months can get a bad rep, you’re in for a sweet treat.
“It’s definitely a good time to plant carrots. You should plant carrots by the seed and then just thin out the weaker ones as they grow in excess to to give the stronger ones enough room to grow,” Thomson said.
For more sweet flavours in your cooking, Thomson said you could also plant beetroot which apparently gets sweeter because of the cold. The great thing with beetroot is that while you’re waiting for the bulb or root to form, which will probably happens more towards spring time, you can eat the beetroot leaves either raw or cooked.
How long does it take to grow winter vegetables?
Thomson explained that vegetables like cauliflower or broccoli take about 12 to 14 weeks to grow.
“It’s a long-term commitment or a large space commitment to a garden. And that’s where something like your leafy greens, your kales and your cabbage and your bok choy are great because they’ve got a much faster turnaround — about six to eight weeks,” Thomson said.
“And look, as soon as the plants are a good 20 centimeters tall, you can start taking a few leaves off — it won’t kill the plant.”
Are there any herbs you can grow in the winter?
Turns out you can grow some herbs in the winter but softer herbs like coriander are preferred as they like cooler weather.
“Really hot, dry weather can make coriander bolt rapidly which means it just goes to sleep. But to be honest, it’s a good time to plant any of your herbs right now because they’ll get established at the very least,” Thomson said.
“The only herb that I wouldn’t plant now in winter is basil because basil loves the hot weather. It will curl and die during winter time.”
Some dos and don’ts if you’re planning to grow winter vegetables
Thomson wants you to make sure that you’ve prepped the soil with plenty of organic matter using either homemade or store-bought compost. She, herself, loves to use a complete fertiliser that is organic.
“So I get something like a chicken manure and you can mix that through the soil as well. And then just plant straight into that and you’re ready to go. I like to try and make sure I’m fertilising my leafy greens every two to four weeks because you want them to grow fast and get a wriggle on,” Thomson said.
Another warning shot from Thomson is people tend to think that in wintertime you can just chuck the seedlings in and and forget about them. However, you really do need to nurture young seedlings and seeds in those first few weeks while they’re establishing or starting to actually grow.
“You’d be surprised you do actually need to water them more than you would think. Even though it’s cooler now, I think a lot of people do do a fair bit of seedling killing by neglecting to water,” she said.
If you’re planning on planting your own winter vegetables, let us know in the comments. For more gardening advice, you can listen to the Bunnings’ gardening podcast series which is also hosted by Thomson.
We're all a little idealistic during our grocery shop. We'll raid the fresh produce section for a number of vegetables and fruits we swear we'll eat but the reality is sometimes we lie to ourselves. Having said that, we're here to give you a fullproof idea — if you've got vegetables in your crisper that are looking a little worse for wear, make a minestrone.Read more