Winter 24 - all on-guard-on-farm

Winter 24 - all on-guard-on-farm

Here we are half way through the year and a good month into Winter ... so far ... so good.

Winter is a favourite time of year for many fans of our produce. Birds, possums, rabbits, mice, slugs and snails ... and so, our farm is a fortress - protecting our precious income from the onslaught. Nets, crop covers, traps, bait stations, the cat, us, we're all on patrol.

We're forever tweaking what crops we grow, and we're pleased with this years Winter garden. The truth of the matter is, we just can't grow everything timewise - there are only the two of us and we have to stick to the crops that grow really well and are profitable for us here, on our farm.

If crops are growing really well: strong and healthy, we'll have less trouble with bugs. Our aim is prevention in the first place, because we don't use strong synthetic pesticides.

You don't need me to mention that it's tough at the moment. And for us, as small growers, we have to make sure that every crop we grow is making enough money.

Some of the crops that we've grown in previous years we aren't growing now, and have given way to extra beds of what does grow well for us: Rocket, Miner's Lettuce, Baby Chard, Cos lettuce, Italian Parsley, Coriander and various sweet lettuces for our MIxed Leaf salad.

It goes without saying that we're forever building up our Babyleaf lettuce growing capacity for our Babyleaf and Edible flower mix. It's an inside joke "for goodness sake, don't mention the babyleaf" because we're always striving to keep up with demand.

Anyway, in a nutshell, we're growing more volume of our most popular crops, and let some of the other crops go.

And, it's working for us. We've learned not to be scared of change over the years that we've been here on the farm ... it's just gone on 10 years since we arrived. That long? Crickey time flies.

In our no-dig, in-ground beds, the Miner's Lettuce is bulging and dense. High in Vitamin C, it was grown to combat scurvy by miners. But we don't really grow it because we think you might be fighting scurvy. It just tastes great ... it has a pleasant, almost crisp texture and mild flavour. We pair it with our Rocket and it gets to join in our Mixed Leaf salad too.

We sow the Miner's Lettuce in 7 rows across our 75cm beds. The beds are prepared by adding 2-4cm of compost and some blood and bone. The seeded beds are covered with protective cloth. This keeps the beds moist, prevents the seeds getting washed away in heavy rain and protects the seeds from getting eaten by birds. Once the seeds have germinated and are a few cms high, we raise the cloth onto hoops and the beds remain covered for the season. We pull the covers open to harvest.

The in-ground Winter garden is pretty much all covered in this way with cloth and hoops. I often think about how the garden looks so completely different in each season. All leafy, green and hooped up in the Winter, a far cry to the Summer garden with it's open beds and vegetables of all colours.

We've had an interesting past with Parsley. We've tried and tried to grow it from seed and failed miserably. Because we're stubborn and think that if someone else can grow it, so can we, we've perservered and probably wasted alot of time, to be honest. So we gave up and planted purchased parsley plants. And they're thriving. We're looking forward to having parsley to sell ... and for us to use here in our kitchen too.

We have an old shed on the farm from which watercress was once sold. It was a long time ago, the 'watercress' sign is all worn away and you can hardly see it. We grow watercress too, but we grow it in our hydroponic gardens. The watercress loves the water flowing under its leaves and through it's roots.

Watercress is a pretty looking thing with it's dainty leaves and trailing stalks, and it's got a lovely peppery bite. We love it in a sandwich with smashed egg. Sometimes I wizz it up into a peppery sauce and fold it through pasta. It's another green you can feel all righteous chomping on, it's full of vitamins and minerals.

We're growing more COS lettuce than ever before. We eat alot of COS ourselves and say that opening a jar of good store-bought mayo and using COS leaves to scoop it up is 'smart cooking'! We've learned over the years that everyone loves it. Slugs, snails, birds, aphids, possums, humans. And a new lover of the COS has shown itself ... we've had mice eating the un-germinated seeds out of our seedling nursery. Crazy. The nursery is now a dangerzone of mousetraps and the cat's been busy. All in for protecting the COS!

We're growing bigger beds of baby Chard now that we've learned our customers love it. It's more profitable for us than growing larger leaved varieties of Chard or Silverbeet. It's a cut and come again crop for us, and we get a few cuts off each bed. We chop the leaves off and the bright red stalks are exposed ... so pretty. It's nearly instant cooking as far as I'm concerned. Raw or momentarily wilted or sauteed. No chopping required as you would with the larger leaves. My kind of prep.

All the best from us for the rest of Winter!