Winter in a Permaculture Garden
It’s been a COLD week, that’s for sure. Winter has well and truly arrived, with lots of snow on the nearby hilltops. Our late-planted, ready-late-in-the-season capsicums have shrivelled sadly under this week’s heavy frosts. I wish I had harvested them last week – now they have all gone to waste. They were the wonderful Jingle Belles mix and were just starting to change from green to purple and red.
The garden has had its end of season tidy up and is looking bare and cold. The fruit trees have dropped their leaves – the fig tree looks particularly silly as it is now just a tall stick. The raspberries and blackberries have finally finished. We still have a few feijoas and the next fruit that will be ready is the mandarins. It’s always exciting to be harvesting something for the first time! This will be our first citrus harvest – tantalisingly small this year but oh, the potential!
With winter coming, there are three main things going on in our permaculture garden.
- All the food is underground.
- It’s all about the Trees
- Plans, plans, plans
All the Food is Underground:
In preparation for the coming winter, most of our succession sowing over the last couple of months has been root crops, as we know they can sit in the ground no matter how frosty. We have a good supply of carrots, beetroots and parsnips in various stages of readiness, so we can keep making soups and lovely roast veges well into winter. As we have harvested sections of the garden, we’ve been planting out more roots crops, although recently we have switched to lupins as a green manure as it is getting pretty cold. The heading is a bit misleading - not quite all the food is underground. We also have leeks doing well and the lettuces are looking beautiful, even if the inclination to eat salads is dropping away.
It’s all about the Trees:
We love our fruit trees – they are getting bigger every year and it is exciting to taste our first fruit from them. This year we even had our first prune plum harvest. We tried leaving one on the tree to see if it would dry by itself (it didn't - it fell off like a normal plum). The children found it on the ground and got very excited because they thought they had found a gigantic blueberry. This winter when the trees are dormant, we are planning to move a couple of them to better positions, and we are adding more compost at the base of the trees to keep improving the soil to support their growth. Let’s hope our feijoa trees survive this new rust threat into the future! Winter is also the time to plant new trees – we have a row of olive trees on order and there will be work to be done once they arrive.
Plans, plans, plans:
This winter we are investing in a tunnel house. There will be plenty of garden work to do this winter to make that happen. The plan is to site it on top of one of our current back yard garden beds. We are also planning to move the compost bins so that they are adjacent to the tunnel house, hoping that heat from the compost will help to warm the tunnel house. We’re also planning a row of mop top trees, under-planted with hydrangeas, as a visual barrier. We’re so excited about the tunnel house. It will make raising our spring seedlings so much easier and help extend our growing season – much needed here in Turangi. However, the tunnel house will not be as beautiful as these gorgeous Victorian glasshouses in the pictures – it will be far more function over form – so we are planning to screen it from the backyard. Using deciduous mop tops will mean that in winter they will let the sun through and in the heat of summer, they will provide shade. The hydrangeas are going in just because they are beautiful!
The other plan is to replace the scrappy planting along the back fence with a row of olive trees. It is currently planted with pittosporums, which we do like, but some are big, some are small and some just died, so replacing them with a row of olives will make a nice, fast growing and attractive windbreak, which produces olives as a bonus feature.
You can see that we will be busy over the winter months with all of this work to do. It will probably take most of the winter, but imagine how much easier it will be to sow seeds and raise seedlings this coming spring, with a tunnel house to shelter the seedlings!
Bring on winter, I say!