June 17, 2021
Spicers Vineyards Estate resident garden expert, Myriam Thomas, advises on 5 things that will grow well in your kitchen garden over winter – even if your garden is just a few pots on a balcony.
We get the low down from Myriam on what, when and how to plant this winter that will be sure to bring delight to your garden and to your table.
For the winter months, what would be your top 5 things to grow?
For me right now, I am all about planting from the Brassica family. Cauliflower, broccoli and kale do really well in the cooler months.
And if you are in an area that does not get too much frost, the final two of my top five things, are spinach and chards. I encourage gardeners to plant spinach, as there are all sorts of varieties, and it grows well in small spaces, plus it really is quite prolific – worth considering for pots. Spinach can easily be covered with a frost cloth if necessary. Mid to end winter is also the right time to start getting ready for spring. An easy thing to do is to start your tomato seedlings indoor near a window.
You work closely with the Restaurant Botanica chefs at Spicers Vineyards Estate, when it comes to planning what to plant and when, how does it work for you all?
I’d say it’s about 50-50 as to what gets planted. With the next few months bringing some cooler temperatures here in the Hunter Valley, there will be a bit of a push for heartier meals. So, it is a good time to think about harvesting and planting some more wintery-type root vegetables to go with those warm and comforting dishes.
I started in this role 18 months ago but before that I was a restaurant supervisor for 3 years here at Spicers, plus I have worked in hospitality for a long time before that, so I understand what works for seasonal menus; plus of course I am used to working with chefs who are committed to serving great food.
Can you grow the same things in smaller home gardens and in pots?
I often get asked that same question and the good thing is that as the Spicers Vineyards Estate restaurant garden is made up of 30 raised beds, it is like a collection of big pots – so I have a bit of an idea about this area. I would recommend things like leeks, celery and radishes as they can work in smaller spaces and are pretty hardy, hence good for pots and those new to gardening.
How do you stay organic?
I am self-taught, and also have plenty of on-the-job experience in organic horticulture, particularly when I was working in the kitchen garden of the Royal Mail Hotel in the Grampians, Victoria – one of the largest organic kitchen gardens in the country.
From this combination of experiences, there are two key organic methods that I use to maintain the garden as completely organic. One method is simple manual larvae removal from young plants, which is what I do for white cabbage moths. This is a bit labour intensive but effective. I also recommend some organic products you can easily find in your garden centre like neem or eco oil. If you are feeling handy, you can simply make a home-made version by mixing a few teaspoons of detergent and vegetable oil with water!
The other key organic method I use is companion planting which is where I plant flowers like marigolds and nasturtiums in the beds to deter pests. Also, if you can, plant blue flowers, not only are they beautiful but they attract bees, which are so important for a healthy garden.
Our organic ethos for our gardens where we waste nothing, fits within the Spicers Retreats sustainability commitment to improve our positive environmental impact and effective waste recycling. Everything we can, is recycled, including garden waste where a lot of it finds its way into the compost or into the stomach of our very definitely pet pig, Crackles.
What does the future of the garden look like?
We have had such good successes that I see a happy future for our collaborative relationship of Spicers restaurants and gardens. One goal that I have now for Spicers Vineyards Estate is to establish a fruit orchard. I think it would complement the Estate beautifully, plus it will add a whole new source of local produce to the menu – not to mention all the fallen fruit that will be appreciated by Crackles.