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Winter winners: The best veggies to grow before winter is over

Winter is when everything slows down in the garden so it's a good time to make structural changes. There are also plenty of crops to cultivate

03 July 2022 - 00:00 By Jane Griffiths
Black palm kale plants.
Black palm kale plants.
Image: Jane Griffiths and Keith Knowlton

RADISHES

Instead of only growing red radishes, mix it up with these more unusual varieties.

Hailstone, as its name suggests, is a pure white, round radish with a delicious mild, crisp taste. 

A freshly harvested selection of radishes.
A freshly harvested selection of radishes.
Image: Jane Griffiths and Keith Knowlton

The round Spanish black radish has a much bolder, more peppery flavour than red radishes.

Easter Egg radishes range from pink to purple or white.

Growing

All radishes are sowed easily from seed and benefit from being buried slightly below the surface — about 1cm- 1.5cm deep. This encourages fatter roots. Thin out so they have space to develop a decent size. They need regular moisture to produce fat roots. Easter Egg  and Hailstone are quick to germinate and bulb but Spanish black need more space and time to mature.

Pests and diseases

Cutworms, slugs and snails all enjoy a nibble.

Harvesting and eating

Hailstone are ready after only three weeks, quickly fattening into round bulbs with a complex earthy and sweet taste. They are best eaten raw.

Start harvesting Easter Egg after a month. They stay crisp even when they are big.

Spanish black will take about 55 days to harvest. Raw, they add a hot bite to salads (peeling the skin lessens the heat). If they are too pungent, cooking tames the flavour.

Beetroot
Beetroot
Image: Jane Griffiths and Keith Knowlton

BEETROOT

Beetroot is one of those multi-use vegetables, great for small gardens. In addition to the classic red beetroot, try Chioggia (with purple and white candy stripes) and Golden Globe (with glowing golden flesh).

Growing

Prefer fertile, clod-free soil. Avoid adding too much nitrogen to the soil as this leads to forked, misshapen roots. Preferably sow directly where they are to grow. They need plenty of consistent water to produce sweet roots.

Pests and diseases

Cutworms, birds, slugs and snails will all try to gnaw your beetroot, especially when young, so protect them accordingly.

Harvesting and eating

Beetroot will be ready to harvest six to nine weeks after sowing. When harvesting, twist the leaves off immediately otherwise they will continue to pull nutrients out of the roots. Baby leaves can be snipped off a few at a time and added to salads and larger leaves used in stir-fries, stews and soups. As long as sufficient leaves remain to feed the plant, you will still be able to harvest the root.

Harvested kale leaves.
Harvested kale leaves.
Image: Jane Griffiths and Keith Knowlton

KALE

Touted as the superhero of healthy food, kale has seen a huge surge in popularity in the last 10 years. It is an easy crop to grow and there are many different varieties, ranging from Black palm (a tall plant and one of the best-flavoured kales, with long, crinkled, dark bluish-green leaves) to Scarlet (a violet-coloured curly kale that adds wonderful pops of colour in the garden).

Growing

Quick-growing kale does better during cooler months and likes moist conditions. It prefers fertile soil and full sun. It grows well with strong-flavoured herbs.

Pests and diseases

Like other members of the Brassica family, kale can be attacked by aphids and cabbage butterfly. Companion planting helps (nasturtium, for example, will confuse the cabbage butterfly). If aphids become a problem, spray with a garlic, chilli and oil spray every couple of weeks.

Harvesting

Harvest baby leaves when the plants are about 20cm tall. Cut outside leaves off a few plants, leaving the rest of the plant to continue growing. On taller varieties such as Black palm pick leaves from the bottom. As you pick, it encourages the plant to keep producing new tender leaves.

Jane's Delicious Superfoods. Jane Griffiths. Published by Sunbird Publishers .


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