Best vegetables to grow in winter NZ

Best vegetables to grow in winter NZ

Growing vegetables at home

As we move into autumn, gardeners are thinking about what are the best vegetables to grow this winter. The summer crops like tomatoes and zucchini are slowing down or have already stopping producing vegetables. Now is the time to tidy up the summer vegetable patches, and prepare for growing crops for winter.

I’ve been a gardener for over 20 years now, and really stepped up my vegetable growing when I moved to a lifestyle block 13 years ago. But you don’t need a huge garden or farm to be able to grow a useful amount of veges. Even with a small vegetable bed, pots or containers, you can grow a decent amount of fresh vegetables to supplement your grocery shopping over winter.

The benefits of growing your own vegetables

If you are unsure about whether you should start gardening, check out my article on reasons to grow veggies. The benefits go beyond simply having fresh vegetables available!

Vegetables growing in rows, with trees in the background, vegetables to grow in winter
Photo by Kenan Kitchen on Unsplash

Where to start when deciding what vegetables to grow in winter

My first step in planning the winter garden is to finish harvesting any remaining summer vegetables, and take out the plants. The old plants will go into the compost bin, and will break down over the next few months. My compost bins get pretty full at this time of year, but it quickly starts to compost down.

Planning what to grow – what vegetables do you like to eat?

My first rule of gardening is:

Plant the vegetables that you like to eat.

A few times, I have grown veges that we don’t really eat much, such as Brussel sprouts. I ended up giving them to the chickens, after they’d been in the freezer for 6 months!

It’s true that you could try to grow some vegetables that you would like to try out. In that case, I would suggest you plant just a few plants or sow only a few seeds.

Here is a list of vegetables that grow well in winter in NZ:

  • Beetroot,
  • bok choi,
  • broccoli,
  • Brusssels sprout,
  • cabbage,
  • carrot,
  • cauliflower,
  • celery,
  • coriander,
  • kale,
  • leek,
  • lettuce,
  • mesclun,
  • onion,
  • radish,
  • rocket,
  • silverbeet,
  • spinach,
  • spring onions.

Decide what you want to grow

The next step is to decide which vegetables you want to grow, and whether to buy seedlings or seeds.

At the time of writing this, I have bought my seedlings and seeds from a hardware chain store last week. But with the changes happening from the current health crisis, I think these types of shops will be shut in NZ very soon. I am hopeful that you can still order seeds via websites such as Kings Seeds, Egmont Seeds or The Seed Warehouse

Seedlings in trays, vegetables to grow in winter
Photo by CHU TAI on Unsplash

The vegetables I am growing this winter

I have bought packets of seeds of:

  • Onions – Californian Red and Pukekohe Longkeeper
  • Carrots – Topweight improved

I have also bought seedlings of:

  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Spring Onions
  • and I was given a punnet of leek seedlings by a neighbour.

Sowing vegetable seeds

I have adapted some excellent advice from Kings Seeds website about sowing seeds (they are experts!)

1. Use a good quality seed raising mix.

Seed raising mix helps seeds germinate well. Use a mix that contains pumice for good drainage, and bark to hold moisture.

2. Sow seeds quite near to the surface, not too deeply.

Sometimes the reason why seeds don’t germinate is because they are planted too deeply. This is the advice from Kings Seeds:

A general rule is to leave very fine seed uncovered pressing firmly into the surface only; fine seed should be just covered and larger seed should be sown no deeper than twice its diameter.

Kings Seeds website

3. Keep the moisture levels even during germination.

Try to keep the seeds in their seed raising mix at a good moisture level – not too dry and not too wet! This can take a little trial and error when you first start out gardening.

4. Look out for low light levels and low night temperatures.

Keep seeds in trays or pots in a place where they get a decent amount of sunlight, and are protected from colder overnight temperatures. I sometimes keep the seed trays in my house, or in a shed.

5. Keep seeds warm

Many seeds need warmth to help them germinate. Look at the planting advice information on the back of the seed packets, so you are planting them at the right time of year for the particular seeds.

Planting vegetable seedlings

If you have seedlings that you have bought or raised from seeds, the next stage is to plant them out in your garden.

The steps are:

  1. Seedlings grown in a greenhouse or shed or even straight from a garden centre / hardware store may need to acclimatize to being outside. Plant them on a day with pleasant weather – no rainstorms or frost forecast.
  2. Soak the seedlings with water before you take them out of their pots.
  3. Dig a small hole for them – the hole needs to be at a depth so that the seedlings soil will be at the same level as the vegetable patch soil.
  4. Take the seedlings carefully out of the pot, and place it in the hole.
  5. Back fill with soil or compost. Gently press down the soil, so it is in contact with the seedling roots.
  6. Water the seedlings carefully after planting.
  7. Mulch around the seedlings with bark or compost.

I put the seedling label a little way from the newly planted seedling, so that I can remember exactly what I have planted. This especially helps when you are planting a few varieties of the same plant type.

Final thoughts

I hope this post is helpful to you. Please let me know how you get on with planting out vegetables for your winter garden.

Pippa