How to keep the gardening urge alive when the weather is cold
May 19, 2017
Winter can be a challenging season to keep the gardening motivation flowing. It seems the pests are worse and the growth slower but in reality it has similar challenges to the other seasons. As the seasons change the abundance of summer produce is followed by a period of clearing the garden and a new beginning with a batch of pests who thrive in the cool, damp soil.
Personally, I find winter a challenge purely because I dislike the cold weather. As a result I feel less motivated to go outside in the chilly air when I can be warm indoors. This is the opposite to how I feel in summer when I crave outdoor time and I make time to break up work day by going out to the garden and walking around to explore what is happening, growing and needs harvesting. Shorter days and more rain generally takes care of the watering so there is less to do in the winter garden. In summer gardeners deal with heat extreme and in autumn and winter frost can be a challenge. One is not more difficult than the other they are just different. Following gardening friends from other countries who experience snow blanketing the garden I feel like my cool weather challenges are a little laughable!
With shorter days in the cooler months your challenge may be that it is dark when you leave home in the morning and dark when you return leaving no window for garden time. in this case you may not be suffering from a motivation to get out to the garden, just the ability to do so.
Keep the gardening urge alive: Use a torch to check the garden at night. It is a great opportunity to do a quick check on plants and to monitor the pests that are active at night. If you have had something eating your new season plants I guarantee the torch tour of the garden will tell you what is doing the damage. I was blown away this week by the volume of slaters in one of my garden beds, there were hundreds and hundreds of them all over the new seedlings. I have never seen so many. I was a little shocked. I like to think my soil is pretty good and well managed in my garden by this particular pest is happily occupied if the soil provides food for them. If this is the case they tend to leave the plants alone. Taking a look with the torch allowed me to quickly react with a solution rather than with a guess as to what was destroying my plants in that garden bed. I added big scoops of compost to the back and edges of that bed to give them something to feed on. I’ll keep you posted but so far this seems to have significantly reduced the loss of plants in the garden.
Use your weekends to invest a little time planting and caring for your cool weather plants and you will be rewarded in the coming months when you can use the torch to head out to collect some extra greens to add to dinner.
I have said previously on blog posts that winter plants grow so very slowly but in reality some summer plants do too. Capsicum and eggplant are prime examples of this. They are raised and grown in the warmth of summer but are not ready for harvest until autumn when they are most abundant.
In summer there are very fast growing plants and slow ones too, the same applies in winter. It is about creating a planting plan that provides your family with harvests from both slow to mature and fast growing plants. I have found that it does not take a large amount of produce to be able to make a contribution to your family meals. I wrote a post a little while ago about meals that can be made from small garden harvests. Leafy greens and herbs that are fast growing can be used to add freshness and crunch and nutrients. They can be used to create pastes, pesto, bakes and sauces.
In the summer months the prolific producers – zucchini, tomatoes, basil and cucumber bulk up the harvests. In winter it is spinach, kale, peas and broccoli, bok choi and parsley.
Keep the gardening urge: With a little planning you can be prepared for the lull in harvests between summer crops and winter crops by planting for autumn firstly, and secondly by utilising summer harvests when the season ends. Summer grown pumpkins, harvested in autumn, make a wonderful feature ingredient in meals over the cooler months while you wait for the next season produce to harvest.
Winter garden pests can be brutal. Summer ones too but it is easy to forget the challenges of getting summer tomatoes and veggies growing well because by the end of the season they have produced an amazing volume of fresh food and that is what you remember.
Snails, slugs, slaters and white cabbage moths are the main pests in the cool weather and can decimate a planting of new seedlings in one night. Your new plants can be gone by morning.
Take action and respond to the challenge: Some tips to help with white cabbage moth can be found here. Tips for dealing with autumn snails, slugs and slaters using organic methods can be found in this post I wrote.
Return to the basics: When things seem most challenging I like to return the basics. For the start of any season in my garden I like to add beneficial flowers and plants to the garden beds to repel or attract pests that may be causing issues. I like to check to ensure that I not planted one heavy feeding plant variety after another in the same space the previous season. If you have limited space ensure you replenish the soil with compost between planting.
Continuous addition of organic matter such as compost, worm castings, egg shells, coffee grinds all help to keep the soil in good condition.
Kids driving you crazy after a few days indoors? Get outdoors, out of the house and into the garden. You can find my suggested activities to do with kids in a winter garden here.
Still feeling like you just can’t get motivated for winter? Rest the soil, plant a winter manure crop. Let it do the work in the garden over this period and by spring it will be ready to be dug through the soil and you will be itching to get outdoors and into the new phase of gardening.
Winter can be a beautiful time to observe the garden. Morning dew on the leaves is stunning.
Tiny water drops on the silvery-blue colours that characterise the cool weather garden should be admired.
Not to mention oranges and lemons
Kale and broccoli – eating your own fresh home grown varieties can not be beaten so try to keep the end goal at the front of mind. Select the days where the winter sun shines through and venture out to soak up the fresh air, the sun, and move your body. The rewards are far greater than being cozy and tranquil indoors. I guarantee that if you venture out, invest some time in the garden the rewards are immense. Each season has it’s highlights as well as their challenges. Enjoy the cool weather in your garden this year. The cool weather of Autumn and Winter are no more difficult than the other seasons. It SEEMS more difficult.
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