Did you know that winter is an ideal time to start a small vegetable garden? Some of the most flavourful vegetables thrive during the cold and wet season, so don’t pack away those gardening tools just yet! Plant now and they will be ready in spring.
South Africa doesn’t get much snow or frost in the winter like other countries in the world, making it relatively easy for us to grow vegetables during the colder months. You can’t, of course, just grow anything. You will need to focus on planting the hardiest of vegetables – and luckily, there are many of them!
An upside to a winter vegetable garden is that snails and other pests are less of a problem. Also, you don’t have to water as much because of the cooler weather. Bonus!
Find a sunny, sheltered spot in your apartment or garden
Plants need sunlight to grow – it’s a non-negotiable – so if you are planting in a vegetable patch, ensure that it gets at least six hours of sunlight and is sheltered from the wind. Other garden ideas include using planter boxes, containers or pots and moving them into the sunniest spots on your apartment balcony or stoep area. Window boxes are an excellent solution for your salad greens and herbs since they’ll get plenty of light. You can also go vertical and set up a garden against a sunny wall.
Give them room to grow
Plant your crops in squares rather than rows. This will give them more room to grow and is a great space-saving technique for all types of gardens – big or small. When your plants start growing, your planters, vegetable patches or pots will look fuller and lusher, and tending and harvesting them will be much easier. Be mindful, though, of correctly spacing your vegetables because if it is too crowded, they are more susceptible to pests and diseases.
Select your vegetables carefully
The easiest vegetables to grow during this time of year are leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, and Asian greens), easy root crops (carrots, radishes, potatoes, for example) and the brassica big four (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale). Other hardy vegetables include garlic, leeks, celery and green peppers.
Amp up your soil
Wherever you plant your vegetables, ensure that the soil is well-drained and rich in nutrients. This is the perfect time to make use of your compost heap or get some fertiliser from your local nursery, as many winter vegetable gardens require a lot more nutrients.
Mulch is your friend
Collect the leaves from your gutters or buy some bark chips to use as mulch. Mulch helps to keep the soil temperature steady, locking in the warmth and moisture much like a blanket. Your mulch layer should be about 5-8cm thick.
Don’t let winter intimidate you this year – get planting now with these super easy vegetable garden ideas!