Winter in the garden

 

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Photo credit: Mieke Florisson

Working outdoors as a gardener I know winter has arrived when… I arrive at work at 8am in so many layers of clothing that I can hardly move my arms…and my colleagues who work in the office complain how cold it is (although they have little blow heaters placed under their desks to warm their feet)…and no one says ‘it must be so nice to work outside all day!’… and I’ve lost all feeling in my nose, toes and fingers by the time I’ve walked up the hill to unlock the garden shed and gather my tools. That said, I love working outdoors and experiencing the changing weather with each season…it helps me feel connected with nature.

securing bird netting

Hammering some clouts around my garden bed edges for securing bird netting

Although things are growing more slowly in the garden now, there is still plenty to do. If you haven’t done so already, you can safely remove your insect exclusion nets from your brassicas as the cabbage white butterflies disappear with the onset of the colder weather. The fine mesh of the insect netting can restrict light and air circulation so is best removed for the winter months. If you have problems with birds or possums attacking your vegetable seedlings you can replace the insect netting with bird netting as I’ve done. The larger mesh size of the bird netting will allow more sunlight to reach your seedlings and improve air circulation which can help prevent disease. Leave your framework of hoops in place and drape the bird netting over them, you can secure the netting by hooking it over some clouts nailed along your garden bed edges. If you keep your netting secured tightly over the hoops and don’t leave any gaps along the bottom of the nets, birds won’t get tangled or trapped.

netted garden beds

Some of the beds in my vegetable garden in the front yard

In winter I also like to remove any thick mulch from around my vegetables. The straw mulch is much needed during the warmer months to help retain moisture in the soil, but during winter the straw not only makes a perfect breeding ground for slugs, it also keeps what little sunshine there is from warming up the soil.

organic snail pellets

 

Although I don’t normally promote or advertise any products on my blog, if slugs and snails are eating your young seedlings, I recommend using Protect-us snail pellets which are the only snail pellets I’ve been able to find that are registered for use in organically certified vegetable crops here in Australia and are safe for wildlife and pets. It uses elemental iron which forms  an iron salt when consumed and causes the snails and slugs to stop feeding and hence leads to their death. Uneaten pellets break down in the soil and add iron nutrients which can be used by the vegetables you grow. You can buy Protect-us pellets online or ask your local garden centre to stock it for you.

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How to make an insect exclusion tunnel

Unknown-2When growing any vegetable in the Brassica family during the warmer months, there is a risk that they may come under attack from caterpillars of the Cabbage White Butterfly. The easiest way to keep these green little caterpillars from devouring your prized vegetables, or turning up in the florets of your broccoli at the dinner table, is to make an insect exclusion tunnel.

 

The Brassica Family includes: Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Chinese Cabbages, Mustard, Brussel Sprouts, Kohlrabi, Turnips, Mizuna and Radishes.

To make a tunnel you will need::

-Veggie netting (2mm mesh size-available from various online suppliers)

-black poly pipe (with a diameter that fits over your stakes)

-timber stakes or star pickets

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Step 1- Hammer your stakes into the soil at regular intervals, opposite each other, around the edge of your vegetable bed.

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Step 2- Measure and cut your poly pipe to lengths that will form an arch over the shortest sides of your vegetable bed. Push them over a stake and bend across the bed to the opposite stake.

step 2 vegie net

Step 3- Lay your Veggie net over the arches and secure ends by tying with twine. In windy areas you may need to use wire pegs ( you can make them yourself from old wire coat hangers) or bricks to peg the sides down. White Cabbage Butterflies are very good at finding any gaps!

step 3 vegie net