Once you’ve harvested your lemons it’s a good idea to prune trees to maintain a manageable size and help improve productivity. Winter is the best time as borer, a major pest for lemons, are not on the wing.
When picking broccoli, make sure florets are young and tightly closed. Use within a couple of days for the tastiest flavour. Do the same with cauliflower, removing all leaves before storing in the crisper section of your fridge.
Persimmons will be ripening on many trees now and their golden fruit is both lovely to look at and highly nutritious to eat, full of vitamins A and C. Pick fruit straight from the tree and eat it like an apple, or slice it up. Persimmons store well and are delicious cooked in chutneys or jams or even made into a sorbet.
Macadamias are another winter-cropping tree. Make sure you pick up nuts from the ground as quickly as possible to prevent them from rotting. If trees are getting too big to harvest easily, now is a good time to prune to reduce height and thin out branches. Make more space for carrots by thinning rows out early. Those tiny ‘thinnings’ make delicious snacks for the kids and are great in salads and stir-fries. Do the same with leeks, using them as you would spring onions. Mature leeks should be harvested when they about 2.5cm thick.
Don’t stop picking silverbeet leaves or plants may start to flower (‘go to seed’). Once this happens, the leaves are usually inedible. If you have too many leaves, give them to someone who keeps chickens – chooks love silverbeet.
For plenty of fresh carrots in the larder it’s best to keep sowing continuously in small batches. Nice straight carrots means clearing out clumps, stones and large roots in the soil before you sow. If your soil is heavy clay, use planters or pots to grow carrots.
Sowing a cover crop such as lupin or phacelia is a good idea for areas of the vege garden you’re not using in winter. In spring, the mature crop is dug into the soil, adding valuable organic matter and nutrients.
Keep sowing peas every month or so for continuous harvests. Dig soil over thoroughly, making sure compost and fertiliser is mixed in well to avoid burning roots. Avoid sowing in a spot where you’ve had a crop of beans or peas previously to avoid disease. Ideally, choose an area where potatoes or other root crops have been growing.
In warm areas you can sow broccoli direct into the garden, thinning out as they develop to leave the strongest seedlings. Avoid a windy spot as plants are easily damaged. Alternatively sow in pots or punnets for planting out in the garden once they have formed a couple of sets of leaves and are more able to cope with winter weather. Protect seedlings with frost cloth in colder areas.
Keep planting seedlings of greens such as bok choy, cabbage, broccoli, broad beans, peas, silverbeet and spinach if you live in an area where frosts are not a problem. Make sure seedlings have at least two sets of leaves and are robust enough to go outside.
Plant rhubarb crowns (divisions of established plants) when growth has slowed down in midwinter. Position plants away from other annual veges so roots won’t get damaged. If you live in a warm area, choose a spot in part shade. Dig in compost and/or well-rotted manure, seaweed and other organic matter well before planting as fertile soil is a must.
It’s not too late to plant garlic if you live in a frost-free area.
Winter is a good time to plant deciduous berries such as boysenberry, thornless blackberry and raspberry while they are in their dormant stage. A support structure for training the vines, fertile soil and good drainage are essential for prolific berry crops.
Strawberries can be planted now if soil is not too wet or cold at your place. Choose a sunny spot with well-drained, fertile soil. Ensure the crown of the plant is level with, or just above, the soil. If aiming for an early crop, protect young seedlings from frost in cooler areas.
Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: Nicola Edmonds /bauersyndication.com.au & Getty images.