With autumn well underway, Claire Bickle shares how you can start planting now for bountiful crops in winter and spring

In the subtropical climate of South East Qld the winters can often be fleeting and just as it’s cooling down it’s warming up again.

So, what can you plant in autumn that will see you harvesting throughout the cooler months and into early spring?

In season vegetable seedlings ready to go into my garden this weekend.

Top edible garden preparation tips

  • Choose a full sun location
  • Add organic matter such as compost or well-rotted animal manures like cow, chicken.
  • Dig through to a depth of 20-30cm
  • Mulch on top with either Lucerne or sugarcane to suppress weeds and retain soil moisture
  • After planting water in seedlings or seeds with liquid seaweed
  • Fertilise every 4-6 weeks with pelletised organic fertiliser and liquid fish and kelp.
  • If growing in pots be sure to choose a premium quality Australian potting mix.
  • Consistent watering is crucial for success
  • Successive planting and sowing of your favourite crops every few weeks until we hit spring

Beetroots are best sown as seed directly into the garden.

Successive planting = successive harvesting

Successive planting and sowing will see you beating the old cycle of famine to feast, then back to famine.

Crops that are quick growing and if they are a favourite on your weekly menu can and should be planted every few weeks to avoid that one big harvest and then nothing.

This process is where you plant a punnet of for example broccoli and then 2 weeks later plant another one and then yet another 2 weeks later, you get the picture. You can do this for a variety of vegetables; lettuce, radishes, mustard, broccoli, broccolini, kale, mini cabbages, Asian greens, peas/snow peas, spinach, silver beet and various quick growing herbs. This will ensure that as the first planting is harvested or starting to produce diminished crops, the follow up planting will be just coming to fruition.

Butterhead lettuce

Butterhead lettuce

In for the long game

There are some crops that can only be planted now in autumn for any harvest of worth.

  • Edibles such as, onions, leeks, garlic, potatoes, cauliflower, broad beans.
  • Most onions varieties, garlic and leeks need the cooler weather to get established and then it’s the lengthening of the daylight hours in spring that trigger the formation/swelling of the onion and garlic bulb and the thickening of the leek stems.
  • Potatoes need at least 20 weeks to come to fruition underground and if you plant these too late (late winter – spring) they will end up rotting as they mature in the summertime.
  • Brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower and kohl rabi once again need time to form their flowering heads and bulbous stems, so planting in autumn gives them the required length of time. Plus, the cooler months see less to no cabbage moth activity. You can plant faster growing brassicas like kale and broccolini throughout winter and spring, but you’ll need to keep an eye out for any cabbage moth activity as the days warm up.

Autumn and winter is a great time to be growing tomatoes in the subtropics in frost free areas because of the limited Qld fruit fly activity.

Harvest tips

Remember with broccoli don’t pull the whole plant out to harvest, just cut the main broccoli head off. Why? Because once you’ve harvested the first main head, smaller side shoots will be produced off the stem left behind for second and third harvests.

With loose leaf types of lettuce, spinach, silver beet and rocket harvest the outer leaves over a matter of weeks/months instead of pulling the entire plant out. This way you have much longer harvesting periods and really get your money’s worth out of the edibles you planted.

Did you know that beetroot leaves are edible, as well as the root? As are the flowers of peas and snow peas. And if your broccoli goes to flower, you can eat those blossoms too.

It’s all “hale the kale” time. Plant Green curly, red Russian or Tuscan black.

What to plant now

Here’s what you can plant in autumn for plentiful harvests in winter and spring:

  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Cauliflower
  • Kohl rabi
  • Broccolini
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Spring onions
  • Shallots
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Snow peas
  • Broad beans
  • Potatoes
  • Lettuce – loose lead and hearting
  • Carrots
  • Beetroot
  • Silver beet
  • Chicory
  • Sorrel
  • Rhubarb
  • Spinach
  • Radish
  • Turnips
  • Swedes
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplants
  • Bok choi
  • Pak choi
  • Tatsoi
  • Wong bok
  • Rocket
  • Fennel
  • Dill
  • Coriander

Plus edible flowers such as, violas, pansies, cornflowers, calendula, alyssum can all go in now.

Strawberries, red cabbage, silver beet, parsley, broccoli, spring onions and poppies to bring in the bees.