by Ruth Vercoe
As winter brings frosty mornings and crisp blue days to Christchurch, many gardeners may be tempted to retreat indoors and wait for the warmer months to return.
However, true green thumbs know that while the growth period has slowed down, there is still plenty of tasks to keep you active and keep the garden ticking over ready for the Spring and Summer growing periods.
While this temptation to stay indoors and hibernate during winter is very real, it’s crucial to recognise the benefits of staying active and venturing outside into the crisp, fresh air. Engaging in gardening activities, even on chilly days, promotes physical exercise, helping to keep your body moving and maintaining overall fitness.
Gardening also offers mental and emotional benefits, such as stress reduction and improved well-being. Plus, the beauty of the winter garden, with its delicate frost-kissed leaves and occasional pops of colour, can be a true delight for the senses.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the tasks and projects that can be undertaken during the winter months, the delightful produce you can harvest, the joys of being active outdoors in the fresh winter air, and the added importance of growing your own produce in the face of rising living costs.
Winter Tasks and Projects
While winter might seem like a period of dormancy in the garden, there’s still plenty to keep you busy. On days when the weather permits, take advantage of the opportunity to prune your fruiting vines, shrubs and inspect your fruit trees for any signs of dead wood. Additionally, it’s a great time to spread a fresh layer of compost where needed to replenish the nutrients used through the Spring and Summer growing period and top up the pea straw/mulch to protect the soil from erosion and the extreme temperature fluctuations.
Tidying up the winter garden is another important task to consider during this season. Winter weeds tend to grow at a slower pace, making it an ideal time to tackle them before they have a chance to take over. By clearing out any unwanted vegetation, you create a clean slate for the upcoming spring.
Finally, dedicate some time to perusing seed catalogues, exploring new varieties, and planning for the upcoming season – I always like to make sure I am growing what the family eats a lot of, something which makes my garden area pretty and something new to experiment with.
Harvesting in Winter
While some may think that winter gardens are devoid of produce, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the abundance of vegetables that can be harvested during this season. Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, silverbeet, spinach, cabbage, and Asian greens are all hearty winter crops that thrive in the cooler temperatures. Don’t forget to pick fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, and rosemary to add flavour and vibrancy to your winter meals. Lastly, leeks can be harvested and incorporated into warming soups and stews.
Even during winter, you can get a head start on your spring garden by planting certain crops. Strawberry plants are best established in winter, allowing them to develop strong roots before the growing season – you’ll start seeing them in garden centres soon – or if you have plants from last year, have a look for baby plants called ‘runners’ which you can transplant around the garden. Inside, you can start planting successions of beetroots and brassicas, giving them a chance to germinate and grow before transplanting them outdoors in the warmer months. These early plantings will help you jump-start your garden and ensure a plentiful harvest when the time comes.
The benefits of your own backyard grocery store
In addition to the joys of gardening and staying active, growing your own produce becomes even more important in a world where the cost of living continues to rise. Supermarket prices seem to soar season after season, making it increasingly challenging to stretch your grocery budget. By cultivating your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs, you take control of your food supply, reduce reliance on store-bought produce, and enjoy the economic benefits of homegrown abundance. With a little time and effort invested in your garden, you can significantly reduce your grocery expenses while relishing in the satisfaction of nurturing and harvesting your own nutritious food.
Not only does growing your own produce help save money, but it also allows you to enjoy the unrivalled freshness and flavour of homegrown goodness. There’s a remarkable difference in taste between a store-bought tomato and one plucked straight from the vine in your backyard. You have the freedom to choose heirloom varieties, experiment with unique flavors, and revel in the simple pleasure of enjoying meals made with ingredients you cultivated with care. Furthermore, when you grow your own produce, you have the power to prioritize sustainability and organic practices, knowing exactly how your food was grown and minimizing the use of harmful chemicals.
Winter gardening in the South Island may require some extra layers and occasional sheltering from the elements, but the rewards are abundant. By embracing the tasks and projects, relishing the bountiful winter harvest, enjoying the physical activity and fresh air, and recognising the importance of growing your own produce in the face of rising living costs, you’ll nurture not only your garden but also your own well-being and financial stability.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab your gardening gloves, venture into the winter wonderland, and let your green thumb thrive in this special season of growth and self-sufficiency.
About the Author
This guest post was written by Ruth Vercoe – a part-time school teacher, full-time Mum and hobby gardener. She loves sharing her green thumb adventures with others through ‘Grow Nurture Nourish‘ on Instagram. Head there if you would like to see her growing space and have the occasional tips and tricks, as she documents her gardening journey, inspirations, and glimpses into the beauty of nature.
If you’re eager to delve deeper into the world of gardening and want to learn alongside like-minded individuals, I invite you to explore Secret Gardens, where you can book workshops and tours throughout New Zealand, giving you the chance to visit peoples private gardens – including workshops for learning to start your own garden in Ruth’s beautiful back yard.