Australian Veggie Gardening: Things to Do in Winter

Australian Veggie Gardening: Things to Do in Winter

It’s winter, but you don't need to put your gardening hobby on hold. In fact, there are plenty of vegetables to grow for winter. Apart from making the most of your cool season crops, winter is a great time to start preparing for spring. Remember, the best gardeners are always thinking one or two seasons ahead! Looking for things to do in your winter veg garden? Let’s check out your options beginning with those all-important winter growing vegetables. 

Australian Winter Veggie Planting Guide By Climate Zone

Winter Veg for Arid Zone (General Winter Veg List)

Winter can be a very productive time. We’ll begin with a general list of the best winter vegetables to grow in Australia using the arid zone as an example. With less intense sunshine, you can make the most of the water you use to garden. You'll be surprised by how many options you have! Crops to grow include:

If you’re frost-free, you can even try some crops that are generally seen as summer crops, for example, tomatoes.

Winter Veg for Tropical Zone

The somewhat lower temperatures you experience are still warm enough for traditionally summer crops - in fact, you may even do better with them at this time of the year. Refer to our arid zone list with the addition of the following crops:

Winter Veg for Subtropical Zone and Temperate Zone

It’s a bit cooler than the tropics here, so experimenting with summer crops at this time of the year can be a bit risky. Use our general winter crop list under the arid zone guide to be on the safe side. 

However, micro-climate does play a role. Use soil temperatures and your experience of frost in your garden to guide you if you want to try diverting from the usual winter crop list. 

Winter Veg for Cool Climates

Colder minimum temperatures will limit your options somewhat, but you can still use our arid zone / general winter crop guide to select crops. You’ll have a particularly good chance of success with veggies that love cool temperatures, and even a bit of frost. That means even better success with the entire cabbage family including Brussels sprouts. 

Extra Tips to Grow Vegetables in Winter

Consider Time to Harvest and The Need for Cold Weather When Sowing

When you sow crops that love cooler weather, always consider the finishing time or time to harvest. With most crops needing three months to finish, late sowings may encounter weather that’s too warm for them. 

For example, lettuce and cabbage-family crops may suffer once the weather starts warming up. Fast-growing crops like radishes and turnips, on the other hand, are ready to harvest within six to ten weeks. Your late sowing might be just fine.  

Other crops, including carrots and silverbeet aren’t all that heat sensitive and won’t mind if you sow them further into the winter months. 

Remember That Every Garden is Different

When we suggest sowing times, we have to generalise. You’re the best person to decide what your garden’s growing conditions are like. Factors playing into microclimate include whether your garden is on low-lying or high ground, and how much sun exposure your garden gets in winter. 

While we can offer general advice, we don’t know what your specific growing conditions are. We can offer you fairly safe bets on what you’ll succeed with, but you might find that you have more options than we offer. 

Less Sun Exposure and Lower Light Intensity in Winter

In winter, you not only experience shorter days, but lower light intensity owing to the angle of the sun. You might also get more shade than you do in summer. A bed that gets full-day sun in summer might only get a few hours of direct sun in winter. 

To grow sun-loving crops, you need at least six hours of direct sunshine, and preferably more. Once again, your powers of observation should guide your decision-making. 

Watering Requirements are Seasonal

Even in professional farming, adapting to winter watering needs can be a challenge. Soil stays wet for longer, and even those who struggle with under-watering in summer may overwater in winter. The best way to gauge watering needs is the good old-fashioned finger test. Get your hands dirty before you decide whether it's time to water. 

Keep a Gardening Diary or Spreadsheet

You can learn a lot from experience, but to do so, you need to keep records. Record sowing dates and evaluate your results. If you experience any unusual conditions, for example, unexpectedly hard frosts, note them too. 

Your records indicate what works for you and allow you to make better choices as your experience grows. A single failure may not mean that you need to change your entire winter veg planting programme - as long as you know what caused it and think you can address the issue next time round. 

Common Winter Vegetable Pests and Diseases in Australia











You can go entire seasons without having a single problem with pests and diseases. But if you do encounter issues, you’ll want to act fast.

Fungal issues

With cooler, damper conditions, fungal diseases are more prevalent than insect problems. Well-grown, adequately spaced winter vegetables are less likely to succumb, but if you see signs of fungal disease, you need to act quickly. Mildew and black spot are fairly common winter problems. 

You can limit fungal diseases by trying to keep water off the leaves when you irrigate or by watering in the morning rather than the evening. But infections can still occur. 

If you don’t want to use fungicides, milk and bicarb can be quite effective. I’d remove the worst of the affected leaves to reduce disease pressure and then spray the remaining ones preventatively if possible. 

A milk spray uses one part milk to two parts water. Two teaspoons of bicarb to five litres of water offers an alternative and you can alternate the two weekly. Add a drop of mild dishwashing soap to help the spray stick to the plants.

Snails and Slugs

Snails and slugs are also a common problem that gets more pressing during wet winters. Commercial snail baits are an easy solution, but there are alternatives. My favourite is wood ash (not charcoal ash) sprinkled around (but not touching) plants. Snails and slugs won’t crawl over it!

Cabbage Moth and Psyllids

Cabbage moth is a growing problem. You can protect your plants with netting, or you can try inspecting your plants for eggs and newly-hatched larvae which you can remove by hand. As an easy alternative, weekly to bi-weekly sprays with homemade chilli and garlic spray is a killer for cabbage moth larvae. 

The same spray works fairly well against psyllids, but if you aren’t making headway, consider using Neem or insecticidal soaps. 

Start Your Spring Planning

A whole new range of gardening possibilities opens up in springtime. With a bit of planning, you can make the most of it. This might mean that you need to limit late winter sowings to fast-finishing crops or even leave ground fallow for a few weeks. So, your planning includes the following factors:

  • When can you expect your last frost?
  • Which crops would you like to start in spring and how much space do they need?
  • What’s currently in your garden beds and when will they be ready to clear?
  • Which crops might you start in the late winter and when will they finish bearing?
  • Which crops will you sow directly into garden beds and which ones will you start in containers? When will they be ready to plant out?
  • What crop rotation practices apply to your garden beds?

This might make your planning sound complicated, but it isn’t really. All you’re trying to do is to develop a schedule that allows you to take advantage of the magical spring season. 

Your planning probably won’t be exact, but it will help you to make the most of springtime when it comes around. If you just play it by ear, you can still enjoy successes, but planning makes them far more certain!

Forethought also helps you to plan your late winter gardening vegetables so that they aren’t occupying valuable space when it’s time to switch gears. You can adjust your succession planting to match the changing seasons and reap the rewards!

Do Some Heavy Labour

In summer, you need to be up and about bright and early to enjoy some of the hard labour that goes with gardening. In winter, you have a bigger window in which to get physical before the day gets too hot for you to enjoy physical exertion. 

That makes winter the perfect time to do some of those tough yet rewarding tasks you’ve had on the backburner. These might include laying pavers, digging over new beds, manuring and digging in compost, building and filling raised beds, general cleanup, and so forth.

Australian Gardens Don’t Sleep in Winter! Capitalise on Opportunity! 

Your garden needn’t be unproductive in winter. For some crops, winter is the peak season. And, in tropical and arid zones, winter growing is often easier than summer growing. Veggie gardening is a fruitful hobby that rewards your efforts all year round. 

Don’t forget to plant some flowers too! Winter is the best time for cheerful calendulas, sparkling Livingstone daisies, and charming violas and pansies. 

Follow the seasons with Seeds of Plenty and enjoy the bounty!

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