Veggie patch of plenty

As our veggie gardens offer an abundance of produce, Paul West of River Cottage fame shares seasonal planting tips.

Summer has turned the corner, and here we are in February, with another growing season slowly starting to wind down, beginning the long, gentle descent into winter. This is my absolute favourite time of year in the garden, all the hard work of summer has been done and it’s time to start revelling in the spoils of all that effort. Everything is going gangbusters, and where a few short months ago you were desperately watching your tomatoes and zucchinis, waiting for those first precious fruit to ripen, now you’re swimming in the bloody things!

All this abundance is far too good to waste, so if you can’t give it away to your neighbours or friends, then it’s time to grab some jars, head into the kitchen and get preserving. In our modern society you may question the relevance of preserving when we can get most foods year-round from the supermarket. But, if you’re a home gardener, you can’t beat the feeling of twisting the top off a jar of your own homegrown, home-preserved produce. It always brings a little ray of summer to the depths of winter. That simple act brings memories flooding back, sowing the seeds in spring, dutifully watering and feeding during the heat of summer, the joy of harvest and then sealing in all that goodness in the kitchen. That connection and memory changes the way that things taste, it deepens the flavour, enriches it, and makes you feel just the slightest bit smug. So, before the colourful abundance of summer fruit and vegetable fades into the never ending greens of the cooler months, get a friend or two over, and fill up your pantry with some pickles, relishes and sauces!

With all this abundance it’s easy to get complacent, forget the seasons are changing and that it’s time, as summer crops finish, to start planting things for winter. Produce to plant includes cabbages, broccoli, brussel sprouts, peas, broad beans and root crops like carrots and beetroots. There’s still plenty of light and heat left in the days to give your crops a head-start before things cool down. If summer gardening is more your thing and winter veggies don’t tickle your fancy, why not try planting a green manure crop on your beds rather than letting it go to weeds. There’s a stack of benefits for your soil and garden, and it will feed your soil ready for another bumper crop next summer.
In the Hunter region wait until late March/April to sow your green manure crop. Find ready-made green manure seed mixes from reputable organic seed providers.