Grrr! Just how am I supposed to get the garden in shape for spring when the carrots are still occupying the bed I want to pour compost onto, the leeks are where the manure is supposed to go, and the parsnips are in the way of the seaweed? It's an annual headache – as it is for everyone. You don't want to waste the vegetables that are still growing but it's now that the garden needs enriching for the next crop!
I make a point of never wasting anything that I've grown. I've put too much effort into it just to toss it all in the compost. Instead, I employ several methods for making space in the garden at the end of winter. Root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, and beetroots are dug (carefully to avoid damaging the vegetables) and have their green tops trimmed back to just a couple of centimetres. They go into a hole, dug in moist soil, are covered with a sack, and then have a couple of shovels of earth placed on top to keep out the light. This old fashioned 'clamping' as it's know, holds the veges in good shape for a few weeks, and although they tend to become a little whiskery with fine roots, they are perfect for the pot once peeled. Alternatively, root vegetables may be dug, dried off, placed in a hessian sack, and stored in a dark shed. Lovers of traditional Christmas dinners with all the roast vegetable trimmings may also want to consider peeling parsnips, chopping them into servable portions, and freezing them ready for use in December (no blanching required). Swedes, once dug, are happy to be moved (don't trim off the tops) and heeled into a more convenient corner of the garden. Use them up as quickly as possible as they will deteriorate in warmer weather.
Never one to freeze produce if I can avoid it, late winter-early spring is when our freezer is pressed into service to hold processed leeks, celery, and even silverbeet if garden space is needed for something else. This frozen produce comes in handy during that lean, hungry spring period when prices for supermarket veges are soaring and there's next to nothing to eat in the garden.
A rather more exciting way to create space in the garden at this time of year is to juice produce. Teamed with lemon juice to hold all the flavours together, juiced carrot, beetroot, pumpkin, celery, and (if you still have some in storage) apples, combine to make a delicious, healthy liquid meal. Toss in a few sprigs of mint and some ice-cubes and you have a very impressive alcohol-free cocktail. If you don't have a juicer, consider going halves on one with a gardening neighbour.
Speaking of alcohol, for those with a little more time on their hands, there is nothing like turning excess root vegetables into home-made wine. This process is nowhere near as complicated as some folk would have us believe and the results are ... divine! For easy instructions, check out the recipes section of my new blog 'Garden at the Bottom of the World'. Just don't expect to be drinking the results on Christmas day. Homemade fruit and vegetable wines are best left to mature for a couple of years.
Whatever you do to make space in your garden this spring, don't biff out the goodies. If your family can't consume them, someone else will so check out your local food bank, churches and community groups to see who might want what you can't use.