Sleep in, light a fire, make a pudding!

20 June 2013
Written by Kath Irvine
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Embracing winter, Kath Irvine shares some timely advice on creating good flow within the garden, plus preparing and planting your onion and garlic beds  

I love winter. I love the cold. I love getting rugged up and being out in those cold, still days. I love that the aphids die. I love puddings. I love watching the deciduous trees go to sleep. I love watching the garden slow down.

I feel pretty confident that nature did not intend for any living thing to be out on bleak rainy days. Even all those woolly-coated animals are curled up asleep, so take a cue. Sleep in, light a fire, make a pudding. Take as many rainy days as you need, so that you too are ready to grow and give again come spring.

In the Vegie Patch

Not much doing in the garden from now, so take the chance to reflect. Pausing to ponder keeps you on track for an easy-to-manage food garden. Without that pause you’ll just go on bashing your way through, expending twice as much energy as you need. So stop. Think for a minute. How is your garden going? Some topics to think on…

  • Shelter. Yes it’s effort, but wow what a difference. If you need more, now’s the time to get some in. Multi task with your shelter and choose plants that will provide nectar for bees/beneficials and perhaps compost/mulch material as well.
  • Does your vegie patch have 10am–2pm sun? Tree limbs sneakily grow into spaces, and your once sunny spot becomes shady. Prune back any limbs that need it.
  • Consider your flowering calendar too – what times of the year were you low on beneficial insect fodder? Plant something now to plug those gaps.
  • Do you have enough biomass for mulch and compost-making at your place? Growing your own gets you the kind of fertility you cannot buy, and makes its very quick to mulch your beds. Choose nutrient-dense, beneficent herbs such as borage, lemon balm, yarrow, tansy, wormwood, comfrey, pineapple sage, sweet peas, nasturtium, oregano, hebes and so the list goes on.

Now that my raised beds are gone (having served their purpose) I’m finding it heaps easier to get around without those hard corners in the way.

Any flow issues in your garden? Often it’s just one or two small things to adjust that turns your gardening experience around. What irks you as you work?

Consider your paths. Are you constantly jumping over your beds, or (shock horror) walking on them? Lay some cardboard, top with sawdust and make a new path. Perhaps your beds are too wide – free-form beds without edges are so very flexible and easy to adjust to suit.

How’s your irrigation? Got one of those monster hose lines that is always kinking and beheading your plants? Two smaller hoses are the thing. Twenty minute fix-its, those are the kind of things I’m talking about for your winter gardening.

Imagine a long slow, homely winter morning made longer if there is a visitor for morning tea (how lovely). Followed by one or two easy fix-the flow jobs outside, and by lunchtime you’ve hardly broken a sweat but really improved your lot.

If you haven’t already planted your garlic you’ve got this month up your sleeve. Shea is out there planting my first bed as I write. This will take us a few days (long slow mornings remember!), then after that I only have three crops left – brown onions outside and saladings and greencrops in the greenhouse.

Aerate your soil up if you need to. Add a fine layer of your own best compost and sprinkle with lime flour. I spread a thin layer of mulch on top to get the worms right up while I leave the bed to settle a week or so before planting out. Trim the roots and tops of your seedlings before you plant them to encourage robust stocky onions.

If you are buying onion seedlings in, then choose ones that haven’t been pricked on – this means they will be in the tray in clumps of seedlings, not as individual seedlings. If they have been pricked on you won’t get good bulbs, you’ll get fat necks (like the one in this photo) and small bulbs more like a spring onion... plus you’ll only get 6 or 8 onion seedlings for $3 (not the best value). Watsons garden centre in Otaki always have good trays of onion seedlings – about 50 seedlings jammed in one tray for $3.00. (Leave some for me please)

Your onions and garlic will be needing a seaweed foliar feed in a couple of months' time, so brew one up now. If you live in the hills like me and find it difficult to get good seaweed then you can buy an excellent seaweed feed from Oceans Organics ( or buy Oceans 100 from ( Seaweed is where all the Wellingtonians shine in the vegie gardening department – oh you lucky things.

Make sure all your asparagus canes get chopped down now that they have browned off. Dollop rotten manure and perhaps seaweed if you can, then pile the chopped ferns back on top. It won't be long till the first spears are bursting through.

 Solstice blessings one and all. Have a feast with your best people – go on take the time.

Yours in the earth,

In the Orchard
In the Kitchen



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