Local Leaders | In the Patch: Prepare for winter crops while summer ones finish

You can start preparing soil for the next crop, even if the last one is not quite finished. Here compost and manure have been added and the next lot of seedlings can be planted even before the tomatoes are finished.

You can start preparing soil for the next crop, even if the last one is not quite finished. Here compost and manure have been added and the next lot of seedlings can be planted even before the tomatoes are finished.

This month the patch is producing plenty of buk choy, carrots, celery, beetroot, lettuce, radish, rocket, spinach, Swiss chard, spring onions, apples and nashi pears. Despite some light frosts, we're also still enjoying the tail end of summer crops like basil, beans, capsicums, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, pumpkins, raspberries and strawberries.

Processing all that produce, so it can be enjoyed through winter and beyond, means a busy time in the kitchen also. A quick and easy way to store excess zucchini is to grate it straight into a ziplock bag and freeze. Once defrosted its perfect for warm muffins and slices during winter.

At the moment you can sow beetroot, broad beans, carrots, garlic, kale, radish, spinach, spring onions, turnips, peas, Asian greens, rocket and lettuce. I'm also putting in a second round of winter brassicas such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts.

A task in the patch over coming weeks is removing the previous season's growth and preparing the soil for the next crop. Most green waste can be composted and returned to your soil in time. Regular applications of compost is a great way to keep your soil healthy, which in turn is key to a productive veggie garden. I surface-apply a blend of compost and manure to soil before every crop, using a higher ratio of manure for hungrier crops. Lifting the soil carefully with a fork, without turning it, will incorporate some of the compost and improve aeration, while keeping the soil biology happy and intact. Maintaining good soil moisture is also highly beneficial for soil biology; regular watering and keeping the surface covered with mulch at all times is the best way to achieve this. Pea straw or lucerne hay are some of the best mulches to use as they add a good balance of nutrients as they break down.

Take advantage of some beautiful autumn weather and get out there sowing and growing.

Daniel Hartwell

Daniel Hartwell

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