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Winter vegetable gardening in the sub-tropics

Northern Hemisphere gardeners are currently preparing for spring planting, so you'd think I'd be packing up the garden for winter, but in the sub-tropics there's plenty that we can grow, even with a few frosty days.

eight acres: growing vegetables in a sub-tropical winter
This is my garden in autumn, it is a jungle and I can't even begin to explain
what is going on here, it had a mind of its own!

Summer here can be hit and miss, depending if we get rain.  Some years are too dry and hardly anything will grow, and some years are too wet, and the pests and diseases thrive as well as the plants.  This year we were lucky to have just enough rain and I had some good harvests of eggplant, button squash, tomatoes, capsicums, asian greens and beans.  In autumn, we see plenty of chokos and rosellas, the pumpkins are nearly ready, but as the nights cool and eventually frost, the warm-climate plants start to suffer.

Each year we seem to do really well in one thing or another.  Some years it has been beans or tomatoes.  This year is the year of the pumpkin vine.  I think its because we have the beehives near the garden.  Maybe its just luck.  We have counted 10 pumpkins so far, which will be more than enough for the two of us!

eight acres: growing vegetables in a sub-tropical winter
Poor man's beans (lab lab) and sweet potato spill out of the garden!
They won't survive the frost though.

This is the time when we can finally grow some of the cool climate crops.  Peas, broccoli, cabbage (all brassicas really), more asian greens, celery, carrots, turnips, swedes, radishes beetroot and silverbeet all do well at this time of year and actually get sweeter with the cooler weather.  Broadbeans planted now will be ready in spring.  Now is the time to remove the shadecloth from my garden and let the light back in.  I will be sorting through my seed collection ready to start planting as I remove the summer crops.  I was only watering half the garden (with grey water) through summer, but in the winter with lower evaporation rates, I can swap the sprinkler to a different end of the garden every few days and there is enough to keep everything watered.

eight acres: growing vegetables in a sub-tropical winter
and here is the pumpkin vine escaping towards the beehives

eight acres: growing vegetables in a sub-tropical winter
one of the many pumpkins

The only veges that grow year-round in my garden are kale and perennial leeks.  So far I have not found the right time to plant onions, garlic or potatoes, they never seem to make it through a dry or wet spell.  I will keep trying though, as they are staples in our kitchen.

Can you grow through winter where you are?  What are you planting at the moment?


  1. Hi, Liz! Last week, I noticed a few stray potato plants have emerged down near my compost bins. I planted some spuds in an area near there last year. I've covered them over with compost and mulch now so hopefully...more potatoes! In my main veggie patch I've just put in beetroot, silverbeet, Egyptian spinach, a non-hearting cabbage, leek, lettuce and some flower seedlings. Hoping for a healthy hodge-podge. There's room for some kale and broccoli later too. I remember fondly Nanango's ice off my windshield on very cold gets nowhere near that cold where I live now!

  2. Hi Liz, Seeing that beautiful pumpkin made my heart skip a beat. We've also had a good year with our pumpkins and am picking the last ones off now before the frosts start. Brian's wondering if we will get to dig any sweet potatoes at all this year, it's only the second time we've grown them and last year was a bumper crop. Others are also saying theirs are late flowering. It is indeed an exciting time of year in the garden.

  3. Your pumpkin looks awesome. I am sure that the bees have helped your garden immensely. I am going to try spaghetti squash this year - I just love them and they are so hard to find in the markets. Your climate seems perfect for year round gardening, whereas we have slim pickings in the heat and humidity of summer. I am getting excited about planting out my garden and already have all the green leafy crops in. I love this time of year.

  4. I wish I had the room for sprawling vegetables like pumpkin. I have just twigged that I can also grow plants in the cooler months and plan to plant beetroot, cauliflower, kale, pak choy, sage , magoram and thyme.

  5. I love your natural garden - jungle garden as you call it;P You have one BIG garden, just as well that nature is your best gardener partner:) We grow lots of brassica plants for food during winter since they are resilient to the harsh winter. But it's spring time now...all winter food plants are now bolting into seeds, keeping the bees very busy. At the same time, it's time for us to plant and sow summer food crops: tomatoes, cucumber, beans, potato, herbs many varieties as we could and would grow here:) Your pumpkin variety looks just the right size, the local ones we have here is so large.

  6. Waaaa I so miss having a veggie garden, not that I would have time at the moment.


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