Late Autumn ia a great time to start planning for the next main vegetable growing season – and also to get things growing for harvest during winter and into the difficult and ‘lean’ harvest time of early spring. Most people think of spring as a time of bountiful vegetables because there is new growth coming on – but during that season you usually end up with only a small amount of new growth and some ‘leftovers’ from winter.
There are lots of plants that thrive right through the cold winter season and into early spring. And there are some that just taste better during winter due to the cold. Some will still germinate at very low temps but obviously will grow better initially if the seeds are planted in late autumn when the soil has some warmth left and the sun is still shining.
The Chicory family is an example of this. Chicory family plants such as Raddichio, Endive and the various other wild chicory varieties that all taste better in the cold and tend to have better colour and density and texture. This also includes the common dandelions of which there are thousands of varieties – (even if they all look similar.) These plants all develop bitter flavours when exposed to heat and they also all develop bitter flavours once they have flowered – so its best to harvest the leaves before your see a flower stalk on them or to only harvest from new seedlings.
Most Brassicas have a tolerance for very low temperatures – some will still grow in temperatures below Zero C and many seeds will germinate at very low temperatures. Brassicas tend to have a long growing period and will generally do better if they are started in late summer and have some size on them going into winter. But they will usually still do well even if started late in autumn and into winter. They will just grow a bit slower and not get the advantage of the cold on the larger headed leaf clusters. Many Brassicas can be cut off at ground level each year in late summer and allowed to resprout as a perennial in winter. Many Broccoli and others grown for the sprouts can be grown as a perennial and will keep producing for many years. Most people tend to want to ‘tidy up’ their gardens these days and remove them completely and miss out on a much more productive and reliable brassica sprout crop. In Australia we have very few of the really nasty Brassica pests and diseases and this is a very good way to get your Brassicas to produce reliably instead of waiting every year for your slow growing plants to build up enough size to harvest each year. Often the best time to cut them back is when you see the grey aphids appear. Just remove the whole top of the plant and let the new sprouts appear when the pests are well gone.
Broad beans will still germinate down below 5c meaning that even when you see a frost on the ground they will be germinating and growing. The new leaf tops are an excellent leafy vegetable and they continue to grow throughout winter.
Vegetables such as Radish, lettuce, Beetroot & Silver beet also love the cold and can be planted year round in most Australian gardens regardless of where you live.
Its also time to start planning your new plots of Rhubarb & Asparagus and its a good time to create new garden plots and move or plant out the crowns ready for growth in late winter and early spring. Also this is a good time to plant out or move your Globe Artichokes. These will all produce early in the spring season.
You can also relocate any existing brassica and chicory family plants.
It’s also time to look at taking some new cuttings of plants like Rosemary, Lavender & many of the Australian native bushes that are in growth such as Prostanthera. Many Australian natives have their main growth during winter to avoid the severe dry heat of Summer. So it’s worth looking out for them. Some important indigenous plants foods like Murnong & the lily family tuber plants have their main growth during the winter.
Even though coriander is known for use in many warm climate cuisines it really grows leaf best in a cold climate.
And any Garlic or Onion family plants like leeks should be in the ground right now!
Seeds & seedlings to plant out in April/May
Broad beans (fava/faba beans)
Beetroot & Silver beet & Chard
Corn Salad (Valerianella locusta)
- Brussels sprouts
- Broccoli, Kale, Collards & Borekale
- Japanese greens – Mizuna, Mibuna, Komatsuna
- Mustard greens
- Chinese greens – Pak Choy, Gai Choy, Gai Lan, Bok Choy & Choy Sum
Radish ( including Daikon)
Rocket/Arugula (Eruca sativa & Diplotaxis tenuifolia)
Peas (All types)
Chicory & Dandelion
Artichokes & Cardoon
Onions & Shallots & Eschalots
Chives (Poly & Garlic)
Transplant or plant out
Rhubarb & Asparagus crowns.
Sorre, Chicory & Raddichio roots
Artichoke roots & plants
Take cuttings of
Native bushes in growth such as Prostanthera