The nights are starting to be cooler, and some gardens will have had their first frosts for the season. Hopefully only a couple of degrees below zero and not too much damage!
If you are hesitant about growing winter vegies, consider trying kale instead.
Kale is a biennial member of the cabbage family that is a bit like silverbeet, as it is grown for its leaves, and can also be kept in the ground as a perennial until it flowers.
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Kale is easier for novice gardeners in our region to grow than other brassica crops for a few reasons. It is easy to start from seed and will germinate in winter and when soil temperatures are as low as 10 degrees C. It grows easily and is very frost tolerant - some gardeners believe that the flavour actually improves after a decent frost.
Kale has become hugely popular in recent years due to its health benefits. Kale is very nutrient dense vegie, has powerful antioxidant properties and is rich in iron, fibre, folate, betacarotene, magnesium, and vitamins A, K, B1 and B2.
There are a number of varieties available with Red Russian, Winterbor, Redbor, Dwarf Curly and Black Toscana or Cavolo Nero the most commonly grown. Red Russian and the curly kales don't seem to suffer from caterpillar damage as much as other brassicas and if there are any caterpillars on them, you can spot them and remove them more easily than from the dense heads of other brassicas like cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli.
Kale like a sunny spot and a slightly acidic, free drained soil which is rich in organic matter, so add compost, aged manure and a sprinkle of lime or dolomite.
You can sow seed directly into well-prepared soil but sowing into punnets using a good quality, fine seed raising mix is probably easier. Transplant the seedlings when they have reached 8-10 cm and mulch. Set up fine mesh or exclusion netting to prevent cabbage butterflies laying eggs on the leaves and to protect against birds.
When harvesting kale pick the leaves from around the base of the stem rather than the centre to encourage the plant to keep growing.
Kale tastes a bit like a bitter version of cabbage and can be added to winter stews, casseroles and risottos or used to make kale chips.