The best vegetables to grow in autumn
Want to plate up a meal of wholesome, homegrown goodness? Autumn is the perfect time to plant many favourite vegetables.
Growing your own vegetables provides convenient access to fresh, chemical-free produce that’s bursting with flavour you just can’t buy off the shelf.
And right now is one of the prime times for planting in Australia, according to Diggers Club edibles manager Marcelle Swanson.
“In Australia we have two key growing times – spring for the warm season crops, and autumn for cool season crops,” she says.
“The cool season crops are usually frost-hardy and are packed with nutrients, often the nutrients we need at that time of year.
“It’s no coincidence that oranges ripen in winter, just when we need an extra hit of vitamin C.”
- Home grown: How to start your own vegetable garden
Why plant vegetables in autumn?
Planting in autumn can offer certain advantages for some crops, Marcelle explains.
“Many autumn crops benefit from late season frosts for enhanced flavour, like parsnips,” she says.
“During the cooler months, you also have the added benefit of fewer pests, like cabbage white butterfly, which could otherwise decimate your crop.”
- Good for the soul: How gardening might benefit your mental health
Which vegetables should you plant in autumn?
A great source of vitamins C, E and zinc, and packed with antioxidants to boost your immune system, peas are a highlight of the autumn vegetable garden, according to Marcelle.
“Grow from seed, plant with trellis for climbing varieties, or plant more closely for dwarfing varieties so they can support each other,” she says.
Just remember to protect them from snails and slugs.
Enjoyed for the spherical seeds or eaten whole in the pod, Marcelle says peas grow from autumn – early spring in most areas, and can be harvested nine to 15 weeks from sowing.
Tip: Try greenfeast for its peas, snow for its pods, or sugar snap for pods while young and shelling peas when mature.
A staple crop all around Europe, cabbage is not just for coleslaw. In fact, there are many ways to eat it fresh, cooked, pickled and preserved, says Marcelle.
“Grow from seed sown in punnets or seedlings planted at least 30-60cm apart, depending on the variety – cabbage mini crops faster and can be planted more closely,” she says.
“Improve soil with well-rotted compost prior to planting.”
Loaded with vitamins K and C, B6, and folate, cabbage is good for aiding important body processes such as metabolism and functioning of the nervous system.
Marcelle recommends growing from autumn to spring in most areas and harvesting 14 to 22 days after sowing.
Tip: Try cabbage mini or wombok where space is limited, or January king or red drumhead if you have room for more colour and flavor.
Often considered a superfood for its wealth of nutrients and antioxidants, Marcelle says broccoli makes a highly productive home crop as once the main head is removed, it will continue to produce.
“Grow from seed sown in punnets or seedlings planted at least 45cm apart,” Marcelle advises.
“Improve soil with well-rotted compost prior to planting.”
Best grown through the coldest days of autumn and winter in all areas, harvest broccoli six to 10 weeks from sowing.
Tip: Try green sprouting or purple sprouting varieties to extend your harvest, the much-loved Waltham as is commonly seen at the green grocers, or the highly decorative Romanesco for its swirls of lime green florets.
A superfood that has withstood the test of time, kale is rich in vitamin K, C, A, B6 and folate.
“Kale is available in a variety of colours, each a little different from the rest, but all are easy to grow and highly nutritious,” says Marcelle.
She recommends growing from seed sown in punnets or seedlings planted at least 30cm apart.
“Improve soil with well-rotted compost prior to planting,” she says.
Good to grow from autumn to spring in most areas, and harvest leaves as required from seven weeks.
Tip: Try Tuscan cavolo nero for that traditional kale flavor, scarlett for a splash of purple in the garden, green for its popularity in Germany for Grunkohl and blue Scotch if you live in an area with warm winters.
“Eat their leaves and their beets too, this is not just a vegetable for roasting or preserving, beetroot can also be used in chocolate cake and super-moist muffins that kids will love,” says Marcelle.
“Grow from seed,” recommends Marcelle.
“Each seed is actually three plants, so thin seedlings as they emerge and use these as a microgreen in salads.
“Beetroot can be grown year round in most Australian climates, although germination will be slow if sown in winter.”
Harvest is usually seven to 20 weeks, depending on ambient temperature when the seed is sown.
Tip: Try cylindra if you would like to preserve your own beetroot slices for summer burgers, mini gourmet if you’re growing crops in pots, or bull’s blood for maximum colour and flavour.
- Winter warmer: Beetroot risotto
“A spicy addition to your plate and a highly regarded heirloom crop dating back to the Pharaohs, radishes produce the best flavour when grown during the cooler months,” says Marcelle.
A good source of vitamin C that can also play a role in supporting healthy skin and blood vessels, Marcelle recommends growing from seed sown directly into a well-prepared vegetable garden.
“Radishes can be grown year round in Australia and you can harvest in 4-8 weeks from sowing.”
Tip: Try daikon for a mild flavor, watermelon for its colour and pink lady slipper for its flavour.
Not one, but rather a group of plants packed with nutritional value and flavor.
“Quick to grow and harvest, these vegetables are no longer confined to specialty stores because they are so versatile in the kitchen and garden,” says Marcelle.
“Most can be grown from seed sown directly into a well-prepared vegetable garden.”
Sow year round in most climates and harvest outer leaves first as required, or the entire plan if necessary.
Tip: Look for pak choy, tatsoi, yukina and mizuna.
Written by Claire Burke.