Food security - cold climate crops and making the most of what you have

22 October 2013

The garden really is the queen of all seasons. After all our summer salads, she makes way for all the hearty and nourishing winter vegetables for soups, casseroles and hot winter warmers. Our cold weather crops are cabbage - we grow an early variety called Sugarloaf and red cabbage, curly kale, broccoli, kohl rabi, carrots, turnips, silverbeet, Asian greens, peas, lettuce, beetroot, garlic, onions, potatoes, tomatoes (not in June or July) and herbs. We have our main citrus crops over the winter months - mainly lemons and oranges as well as passionfruit and strawberries late in the season. We never grow enough peas or carrots to freeze, they're all eaten fresh. One year we grew enough cabbage to make sauerkraut but most of the time it's just enough to eat fresh. We always have jars of red cabbage and sauerkraut in the stockpile that we buy from Aldi during their Oktoberfest sales. I'd love to grow swedes/rutabaga but it's not cold enough for long enough. The point is though to grow what you can, when you can and be happy with that. If you can't do it this year, pencil it in for next year and improve your skills as you go.

If you don't know what to grow, there are planting guides for many regions, including international, on my right side bar. The easy ones are cabbage, silverbeet/chard, curly kale, lettuce, carrots and turnips but always take the time to enrich your soil before you start. Adding manure or compost to your soil will make a huge difference to the health and size of your vegetables.

All our northern hemisphere friends will be under snow soon but I wonder how many have some form of cold weather crops going through winter. I've never grown food crops in weather cold enough for frost or snow and I imagine it would be much more difficult than our form of gardening here. Even going outside on a cold morning is a test for me.  Over the years that I've known her, Nita at Throwback at Trapper Creek has never failed to impress me with her expertise at cold climate gardening. Nita grows the food for her family and root vegetables for her house cow, Jane, as well. Currently she's busy putting up a lot of her produce for eating later in the year. If you've never read Nita's blog, I encourage you to pay her a visit, especially if you live in a cold climate. Nita has many excellent posts on pasture management too so if you have a cow, or a herd of them, you'll probably find something of interest.

If you're in Australia and didn't watch Gardening Australia last week, watch this absolutely inspirational couple (at 6.10) from the Czech Republic who settled here four years ago. They are growing an abundance of fruit, vegetables, honey and eggs at a small rental unit in Brisbane. He also shows how he grows food for his chickens and a fabulous version of a wicking bed made with styrofoam boxes and PVC pipes. Genius. He waters the box once a month. It just shows you what you can do if you're renting and have very little.

The way we warmer climate gardeners grow and store food is different to that in colder climates. In warmer climates we have the option of growing most of the year, and therefore preserving for later isn't the high priority that it is in colder climates, especially in the US, UK and the colder European countries. However, growing more or buying seasonal food when it's at its best and cheapest is always a good option when looking to save money as well as for our food security stores.  And that will be tomorrow's topic.

I hope you have a lovely day. :- )