By Sarah O'Neil
I always enter winter thinking “I’ve got heaps of time.” But when you think about it, I don’t. The days are shorter, and although we are past the shortest day and they are getting longer, this is only occurring a few minutes per day. For the most part, winter days don’t leave much daylight for late afternoon, early evening potting about in the way summer does. This shaves many hours off the available gardening time each week.
The other thing to take into consideration is the weather. Summer has endless days of clear blue skies and little more than a breeze to take the edge of the heat. Ok, I may be a bit nostalgic for those summer days and have chosen to ignore the random storms that blow through. Winter on the other hand is just cold, wet and miserable the whole time. The days where it is suitable for gardening is probably only about half of the days, to be completely optimistic, when it isn’t raining or I’m waiting for the water to drain away. Walking on or working with wet soil will damage the soil structure through compaction and make my drainage issues even worse. Damaged soil can take a lot of effort and time to restore and I don’t have time for that.
So it is just as well there isn’t too much to be done at this time of year. My strawberries need sorting out. This is always hard to do as some of my plants need to be dug out and replaced. They don’t look that bad, but after three years they have past their prime and if I left them in then I’d get less delicious strawberries in early summer. I have divided my patch into three areas and each July I discard a third. This means each year there will be strawberry plants in their peak of production, with some coming on and some waning, but still producing. It is a job that needs doing. New strawberry plants are best picked up at the garden centre or reputable supplier so they are disease free and in the best of health.
Asparagus crowns are also available in July and knowing how sweet they taste straight from the garden, I must avoid temptation to get more. I have more than enough. These need to be planted in their forever spot because they can last around 25 years, and form extensive root structures very quickly. Waiting beyond the first year when you shouldn’t eat any, is well worth it when you can finally taste the flavour in the second year. It is a brief passion, as to eat your full you must wait until the third year, and then you can have as many as you want.
And on the rainy days, there is a whole summer garden to plan. What will I grow? What new things do I want to have? And which things didn’t work so well in my garden last year? I’m convinced I need to expand my garden a little if I’m to grow everything I want to grow. I do love the planning stage. The new season is so full of hope and expectation and you can almost taste that fresh tomato as you look at the ripe red picture on the seed packet.
Mid-winter is a the complete opposite from the height of summer, there is less going on, but if you’re not careful it can disappear from beneath you while you waited for nice winter days. All days are nice and you can be productive out in the garden or indoors by the fire. Make the most of this season.