Veggie gardening at 1000m plus, now you’re in the clouds!

Here we are in the middle of winter and my mind turns to plans for the coming years veggies. If, like me you’re gardening above the 1,000 m elevation Leura and beyond, you can expect a 80 to 90 day growing season. In general, this means root crops and cold-tolerant crops do well. I am learning to choose vegetables with a 90 day growing cycle and root vegetables that mature in about 120 days. Below 1000 m lucky you, your plants will not experience a lot of frost days.

jerusalem artichokes

Vegies I grow on a regular basis include radishes, beetroot, carrots, turnips, parsnips, kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichoke, Peruvian apple, New Zealand yams, onion, garlic, shallots, and purple congo potatoes produce exceptionally well up here. If some of these names are new to you, ask a local permie and/or foodie they are bound to know what they are and probably where you can get a plant or two.

Of all these, radishes are the earliest root crops and parsnips are the latest. If you pull up all your Jerusalem artichokes and the Peruvian apples and they soon go soft, but leave  in the ground as I do and they keep there until you want to use them, just fossick for as much as you need for dinner.

You can plant many vegetable varieties in the winter, but few will produce an edible crop until spring. Leafy green vegetables do well over winter outdoors, and those I grow at our high altitudes are lettuces, cabbage, chard, rhubarb, kale, endive, garden cress, spinach, radicchio and of course broccoli.

Organic onions

I use a lot of onions in cooking for my family, but I have never managed to get mine to bulb up very well. The majority of supermarket onions come from South Australia and Tasmania, and some from around Griffith and Wellington, and it turns out you really do need to know your onions to grow them successfully this far north.

Here’s why, most onion varieties will only begin to form a bulb when the temperature and the number of daylight hours reach pretty lengthy levels. Onions come in  short day, intermediate and long day varieties. Those listed as short-day onions bulb up when the day length gets to between 12 and 14 hours.. Whilst the long-day onions, will begin to form a bulb when the day length is between 14 and 16 hours, which is all well and good if you are in the southern States further from the equator. So, it turns out I’m just in the wrong area to grow many of them, and I’d be better off growing leeks, since they don’t need to bulb up and are in fact more expensive to buy than onions. To plant leek for free,  just save the bottom inch or so from one you buy and pop it in the ground where it will easily resprout.

Sue will be leading a fresh permaculture design certificate course this Spring.

Words by Katoomba Street Permie Sue Girard, images by Swanksalot (CC-BY-SA 2.0) and Blurdom (CC-NC-SA) on Flickr.

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