A frosty reception

Category Archives: Garden Tips

A frosty reception
6th June, 2018

Seasonal Gardening Tips by Steve Fleischmann

Living and growing in the Blue Mountains means dealing with frost. Frost forms when the ground temperature drops below zero degrees and moisture in the air freezes and settles. Frost mostly occurs in open gardens with exposed surfaces because frost tends to “fall” and can be blocked by tree canopies and verandas.

This is important to understand because one measure for frost protection is to employ a variety of covers that can be draped over plants to protect them. There are a number of products available online or in garden centres under names such as “frost cloth” or “horticultural fleece”. Draped over garden beds, and held in place by rocks or pegs, they act as a barrier to frost yet allow water to pass through.

Corn salad, or Mache, is a great winter leafy green

Another way of dealing with frost concerns a mixture of timing, variety selection, and healthy soils. Many plants cope quite well with frost as long as they are reasonably mature and healthy. Planting Brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages (White, Red and Chinese) and kales early – I start my first sowings around Christmas, and my last around March/April – means that by the time the frosts come the plant is mature and has the ability to cope with being frozen. In fact, many of the Brassicas taste better after several frosts because it increases their sugar content.

I mention this because it seems to be a common understanding to plant this family in autumn and winter. Personally, I find this much too late, plantings I make at this time tend to bolt to seed in spring – not much good if you want to eat fresh veg during winter.

Many lettuces actually prefer the cooler weather and, surprisingly, come back to life after they thaw out. I have found ‘Wonder of Four Seasons’ and ‘Speckled Trout’ lettuces grow well in winter, but there are dozens of others just as good. By picking off outer leaves you can also reduce incidence of slug attack by removing habitat.

Many varieties of lettuce cope really well with Blue Mountains winters

Additionally, most radishes are winter hardy and cope very well with the hardest of frosts. Every year I plant lots of daikon throughout autumn for harvest in winter and they are used in pickles and soups, the leaves of radishes are edible too.

Chinese cabbage, daikon and coriander planted throughout autumn

My favourite winter green would have to be Mache or corn salad. A European leafy green that looks like a miniature lettuce but has a lovely nutty taste and loves the cold weather, In fact it only really grows once the overall temperature drops and will bolt to seed once spring and warmer weather arrive. Plant a lot of them because you harvest them whole and you will need several florets for a decent mid-winter salad.

Using compost generously when planting winter crops not only benefits the plants ability to grow healthily, it has the added benefit of providing some warmth through bacterial decomposition.

Resources

The New Organic Grower & Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman

Did you know?

Frost can actually help organic gardeners by killing overwintering pests and diseases.

GROW YOUR OWN – APRIL 2018
3rd April, 2018

Flyer for Grow Your Own Workshop on Friday 6 April 9am-12pm Katoomba Community Gardens Cost $20 per person pay on the day

GROWING TIPS: WHY I GROW MY OWN FOOD
27th February, 2018

I first became interested and concerned about the sustainability of the food systems that feed us as a student of Political Science and Environmental Studies at UNSW many years ago.

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GROW YOUR OWN – MARCH 2018
13th February, 2018

Our March Grow Your Own workshop is a great way to immerse yourself in hands-on food growing before heading off on the Blue Mountains Edible Garden Trail on 3-4 March.

WHAT’S THE BUZZ?
19th September, 2017

Spring is here and soon you may be lucky enough to see a very cute noisy bee with a blue striped bottom buzzing around your borage. If you do, then you have been beefriended by the beautiful, solitary native blue banded bee. A fantastic buzz pollinator and one of the 350 species of native bees recorded in Greater Western Sydney region.

Above: the blue banded bee (left) and European bee (right).

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GROW YOUR OWN – AUGUST WORKSHOP
24th July, 2017

Grow Your Own - August Workshop on Friday 4 August 9am-12pm at Katoomba Community Gardens

STEVE’S SEASONAL GROWING TIPS JULY 2017
5th July, 2017

Winter is often perceived as a slower time in the garden. I suspect that’s because after the heat of summer most of us gardeners just want some time in front of the fire with a glass of wine to get our breath back somewhat, and to plan and daydream about what we will plant next spring.

The truth is, however, there is a lot to do in the cooler months: weeding, building the nursery you’ve wanted for years, making lots of compost for the coming hungry spring, installing irrigation and winter tree care.

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GROW YOUR OWN – JULY WORKSHOP
6th June, 2017

STEVE’S SEASONAL GROWING TIPS MAY 2017
9th May, 2017

It’s very easy in autumn, as the weather cools and the obvious seasonal changes occur, to settle into an “I don’t need to do anything until spring” mindset, break out the gluhwein and sit by the fire. Yet there is a lot we can do in the garden now that will both provide us with something to eat over winter and set us up nicely for spring – gardeners should always be thinking a couple of seasons ahead.

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SEEDLINGS AT THE CO-OP MAY
9th May, 2017

Our lovely local growers will be back in May with lots of ready-to-plant chemical-free seedlings for you to buy. Drop by for a chat, find out what they’re planting, and get some local chemical-free plants for your winter veggie garden.

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