Some light in the winter dark

We may have passed the shortest day of the year, but here in Canberra we still have quite a bit of winter still to live through. Like my garden I’m slowly coming to life again.

On the weekend we read in the Sydney papers that now was the time to start tomato seeds. In Canberra tomato seeds would be facing this prospect with all the ‘excitement’ of a small child being forced into a cold swimming pool. Here it’s not going to happen unless you have a warm space inside to protect your seeds.

On the other hand our broad beans, which were planted very late this season have now stuck their leaves up out of the ground.

Young broadbeans making an appearance
Young broadbeans making an appearance

My friend M who was far better organised this year actually has pods on her broadbeans!

The new front garden has survived, to some degree the vicissitudes of the people doing the guttering and roof repairs, but the ongoing frosts have really had a big impact on my smaller plants. Just how bad the damage is can’t be fully assessed for another two months when chances of frost have passed, when I can see what will re-shoot and what will need pulling out.

TB’s wasabi plants are growing away quite happily and the citrus trees will shortly be having a new lot of potting mix in their pots ready for growing away into spring.

Wasabi is growing well in our cold climate, under the protection of the tree canopy
Wasabi is growing well in our cold climate, under the protection of the tree canopy

My first hellebore flower has opened.

My first Hellebore flower (well the plant did it really!)
My first Hellebore flower (well the plant did it really!)

But best and most promising of all, our boss hen has started laying eggs again. So far we’ve had one every second day. Let’s hope the other two hens get the message soon!

There is no such thing as a gratuitous chicken photo!
There is no such thing as a gratuitous chicken photo!

Out of sight

Well there’s been quite a gap since I last got to the computer to write a post. Life has a way of getting in the road of both gardening and blogging at times!

We have been working hard in the garden tidying away the last of the summer veg. The tomatoes have been transformed into Green Tomato Chutney and the frosts of the past few days have wiped out the remaining basil bushes. At least the rocket plants are growing away strongly.


Winter plantings have been going in. I’m going heavy on planting turnips this year. They are very rewarding in that the seed will shoot within 3-4 days of being planted, but the snails will make a feast of them if you don’t keep an eye out for them. Apart from the seed I’ve also planted some seedlings of baby white turnips which are sailing happily through these frosty mornings.


Broad beans and purple-podded peas have also gone in, but they haven’t emerged as yet. Our self-sown parsnips are growing rapidly and some small ones will be available for eating quite soon.

However our major activity has been getting the chook shed and pen finished. This Sunday is the Canberra Queanbeyan Poultry Club Purebred Sale and we plan to be there to buy some girls for the garden! As you can see from this photo taken yesterday, we have quite a bit of work to do to get things ready!


Fingers crossed and work boots on!

PS if you are after an idea of what you can plant at this time of year check out the Cold Climate planting guide at the top of the home page.

Weather Warning

It’s 7.30 on Saturday morning and the third day of spring I’ve just gone out into the garden and this is what I see – frost.


Yep, according to the weather station its minus 2 degrees out there. That is not a problem for my broad beans or strawberry runners but it is just too cold to start a lot of plants that the nursuries will be trying to flog you this weekend.

So buyer beware please do not go and buy your tomato seedlings this weekend unless you have a nice warm space inside to start them off.

Cold Start

You know it really is a minus 8 degrees morning when you have to defrost your watering can to get some water onto your plants. Don’t even think about using the hose – I snapped one in half some years back on a similarly cold morning.

My Purple Sprouting Broccoli and peas had a good frost cover but are happy enough once the sun melts the frost off.
If you haven’t seen this story already you might like to follow this link and see how some of our wild life is coping.

Winter Water

Looking out to see a very frosty garden this morning I was reminded of a tip that I heard many years ago from one of the staff at the Australian National Botanic Gardens. While many plants can cope with frosts (down to -5 degrees) one of the main reasons plants die following a frost is actually due to water stress.

Sounds weird, but what is happening, particularly in a dry winter like we are currently having, is that as the temperature rises during the day there is insufficient water for the plant to access and it wilts due to lack of water. Now I know to us the daytime temperature is not that high, but on a day like today where our overnight temperature is several degrees below zero and our daytime temperature is 13 or 14 degrees you can have up to 20 degrees difference in the temperature. So you can see that you plant might well need some water to help it cope.

Best plan is to water as early as you can in the day, (depending on how quickly your hose thaws out!), focussing on those areas of the garden where the soil is dry. While I don’t think you need to go as far as one garden writer I read recently who suggested that you water your lemon trees with tepid water in winter, keeping an eye on how dry your garden is getting may well help save some valued plants.