We’re still weeks away from my first summer tomato, and it feels like I just got all my tender summer starts and seeds in, but I know better: I can’t put away the seed-starting trays because Autumn and winter planting are right around the corner, and I need to be thinking about them now.
When it’s time to shift to from summer to Autumn crops
When you’re planting for summer, you want to at least give some thought to where you’ll put your Autumn crops, because they often need to go in well before end of summer. Brussel sprouts, for instance, go into the ground in June and grow alongside your other plants. Onions are another example of long crops that need plenty of time to mature. Parsnips need to go in now in order to have time to mature.
Then there are your short summer crops. We have trouble letting go of tomatoes and eggplants, but at some point, your radishes and peas will be mostly spent, and you can turn them over into Autumn planting spots. Also consider that if a crop isn’t doing well, rather than spending a lot of time trying to save them and risking adjacent plants, you can turn that space over for Autumn plantings. It’ll soften the blow if you can recoup some of your garden.
Basic crops to grow during the Autumn
My singular goal through winter is to always be able to go grab a carrot, onion, and celery outside. These three vegetables are the basis of most of my winter soups, stews, and roasts, and it is rewarding to be able to source them yourself.
Carrots are short crops, meaning they don’t require long, but in the Autumn, with shorter sun exposure, they take longer to grow. Luckily, carrots hold well in the ground, particularly if you get storage carrots. This also explains why the farmers markets have giant gnarly carrots in November, but those adorable bright baby carrots in summer.
Celery can be perennial in the right climate, so be sure to get some into the ground this summer. But if it looks like its starting to bolt by forming flowers, yank it out and get new starts in before Autumn, when it’ll have an easier time in the cool weather. You can also let some of it go to seed if it bolts — some of the seed you don’t collect will drop and hopefully form new celery next year.
Onions should be planted now, either from seed or bulbs you can get at the garden store, but biweekly reseeding of green onions will ensure you have some to grab this Autumn. And if you want leeks, now is the time to get those seeds in the ground — they are long crops, so you’re growing for next spring.
Everything else you can grow through Autumn
As my summer crops go to seed, I like to replace them with well-developed Autumn starts, rather than trying to start new crops from seed. I try to get a number of different broccoli, including a variety of bolt-resistant compact green broccoli, but also the resprouting variety. I particularly like purple resprouting — this means you can harvest just the head of the broccoli, and it will continue to sprout smaller and smaller offshoots that you can continue to harvest. Growing different varieties means they’re likely to be ready at different times so you don’t have broccolimageddon.
Grow a wild diversity of cauliflower: white, purple, cheddar (the pale orange variety you see in grocery stores), as well as romanesco, the dramatic pixelated chartreuse-looking variety of cauliflower.
This is when it makes sense to get cabbage throughout the garden; it’s one of the most cold-tolerant plants there is, so think about all the varieties: savoy, which I prize for its addition to soups and for wrapping around filling and baking. Napa, which means I can easily make stir fries and won ton soup all Autumn (and now comes in green and purple). Purple cabbage, which I braise for a side dish my friends rave about, and green cabbage, which in winter I like to shred for salads and slaws. If you have trouble growing round cabbage, look for varieties like filderkraut, which are a pointy-headed cabbage available for green and purple varieties; I seem to have more luck with them.
Obviously, this is a time to think about greens, like kale, chard, spinach, collards, bok choy, and mustard greens. These will be hardy throughout the winter. There are cold hardy lettuces, too, particularly in the romaine family, and are worth considering through Autumn.
Autumn is your last shot for herbs, as most don’t tolerate the winter. Get one last planting of parsley, dill, and cilantro in to enjoy those tomatillos and late stage tomatoes with.
Autumn and winter are when we shift to a lot of root vegetables, so you can plant plenty of turnips, beets, rutabagas, and kohlrabi. I know these are not popular vegetables, but I assure you they’re worth considering. Small white Japanese turnips are short crops and delicious, and rutabagas bring some variety to your Autumn and winter offerings — they’re an alternative to potato or cauliflower mash, and are good as a roasted root vegetable, too.
Leave room for garlic and shallots
In most places, garlic is being harvested right now because it is planted in Autumn. Because of this weird timing — planting in Autumn and not harvesting until halfway through summer — garlic almost demands its own space. You can turn it over for a very short crop from July-October, which I do with corn. The trick is to remember to leave space so you can plant again when garlic arrives in the garden stores.
Autumn and winter crops that double as cover crops
To give your beds a break and enrich them for next year, you can choose to cover crop them instead of trying to yield a harvest. This means you direct-sow seeds, and then just before they bear fruit, you chop them to the ground and allow the roots to compost, which feeds the soil.
The most popular choices are field pea and fava beans, but also consider driller radishes (a variety of daikon), which will power its way into your soil, breaking it up so your plants have looser, more healthy soil to grow into next year.
Where to get Autumn vegetables
You can always plant your own starts from seed, which might save some money and allow you to choose specifically what you want to grow. But on some crops, you might have time to direct sow them in the ground now.
Your garden centre and possibly even grocery store should have autumn and winter starts for you, too. They’ll definitely have cover crop seeds by the pound and can advise on good localised options to help solve issues in your garden.
The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans
Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.