Growing cover crops over winter
Tips from Sarah the Gardener
As the season draws slowly to a close, one by one crops are harvested and eaten or production slows to such a point that the once prolific harvest dwindles to slim pickings. There is no fighting it, the summer garden is past its best.
For many this is a time to pack up the garden, put away the tools and not give it another thought until the following spring rolls around. Others, overwhelmed with the glut of the season and unable to cope with even one more zucchini are more inclined to just walk away, leaving the garden as it is, only to find a jungle to deal with before anything can be done in the spring. But either way, the garden is no longer a priority and gardening is no longer the favoured hobby of the moment.
However, for many gardeners, bitten by the gardening bug, this situation is not ok. They have enjoyed getting stuck in and getting their hands dirty over the last few months and have enjoyed the fruits of their labour and don’t want it to end. They are keen gardeners and are prepared to garden whatever the weather.
The good news is, for those willing to continue, there is gardening that can be done and depending on the level of commitment there is something for everyone. The first thing that should happen is as crops finished, it is prudent to clear away the spent crops, so they don’t harbour pests and disease over the winter months, allowing them to rise up in the warmer spring weather, just as tender young seedlings are making an appearance. Some plants can be composted, but if they are infested, burning or sending away in the rubbish is best.
With a clean and clear garden, the beds can be replanted. There are many crops that can grow over the cool season, and while not as many as in a summer garden, the variety is enough to add a crunch and a freshness to the comforting winter diet. Succession sowing across autumn, while it is still warm enough, will ensure a more continuous supply rather than having everything ready at once. Taking care of crops over these cold months is just enough to keep the green thumb exercised but not overwhelmed.
As the range of cool season crops isn’t extensive as the summer, even with planting out crops, there will still be bare spaces. Or if you choose not to grow for a harvest over the winter you are left with the problem of empty beds. Nature doesn’t like bare soil and will do its best to colonise it with every weed and unwanted seedling from around the neighbourhood. And if left until the spring can become a nightmare to deal with.