Ideal time to grow winter vegetables

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I am getting the feeling during the last week that many gardeners are planting out their own winter vegetables.

Whether it has been the welcome rain or lack of supplies in stores, it is the ideal time to grow brassicas, which are the major group of vegetables produced as winter crops. This includes cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, which are ideal for stews and soups. Winter vegetables like an alkaline soil which means adding lime to the garden or digging in poultry manure.

The very popular broccoli can still be planted up until April, which depends on quick growth – this can be achieved by applying a side dressing of a complete fertiliser every five or six weeks or a weekly application of Flourish of Tomato and Vegetable fertiliser. Once the broccoli’s centre head is tightly packed, cut it to allow side shoot to produce – don’t leave the centre head until dots of yellow appear as this indicates that flowering is beginning.

Although cauliflower is related to broccoli, they take longer to grow – from 14 to 24 weeks. Once the centre has formed it should be protected from direct sunlight. This is easily done by tying some of the larger leaves together to form a cover over the curd (centre).

Cabbage is somewhat easier to grow than cauliflower and broccoli, but its quick growth needs to be encouraged by nitrogen. This can be achieved by applying poultry manure or small applications of sulphate of ammonia.

The most annoying pest to vegetables being grown through autumn to winter are the white butterfly months, which lay countless eggs, resulting in grubs. I combat this by applying a derris dust.

Many other vegetables can be grown at this time. It’s easy to grow silver beet, carrots, broad beans, carrot, leeks and parsnips, as well as winter variety lettuce.

THIS WEEK

* St. Pat’s Day was on Tuesday, but it’s still ideal this week to plant sweet peas.

* Keep working on lawns that haven’t recovered from army grub.

* Pumpkins and watermelons should be picked ready for storage – a shrivelled stem is a good indicator they are ready for picking.

* Recent rains which we have begged for means lime on the lawns and dolomite on the garden, especially the roses beds.

In the garden, with Judy Sharpe.