We love autumn in the vegetable garden.
We look forward to working outside in the cooler temperatures, a welcome change from those hot days of summer. The frenetic pace of planting vegetables in spring and summer begins to wane. Our focus turns to autumn and winter.
Yes, you heard right.
Autumn is the time to plant many of the vegetables you want to be able to harvest in early spring. Autumn is also the time to get established many of the vegetables you want to harvest over winter.
Their growth rates slow right down once the really cold winter days set in and the daylight hours drop below 10 hours in May. So these vegetables need to be started with enough warm days and light to get some growing done.
It might be a pleasant time in the garden, but it can get a little complicated juggling three seasons.
Below is a list of some of the vegetables we like to plant in autumn.
Asian greens are good to grow at this time of the year because they grow fast. Our mainstays are wong bok (chinese cabbage), pak choy, komatsuna (a giant mustard spinach) and mizuna.
Put seedlings in now and be prepared to throw a frost cover over. We do this anyway, at night, to hold in some heat and open them back up again in the daytime to the sun and the air.
If you cover these vegetables with cloches, you can continue to harvest into winter. We sow a crop of each in the polytunnel for winter harvesting.
English spinach is another vegetables that loves the cool weather and is a fast grower. Start with seeds no later than early March or plant seedlings up till April and early May. We will be picking this spinach through autumn and winter.
You can plant one crop quite late, get it established even if it is a little small and leave it over-winter. This spinach will take off in early spring and reach a harvestable size quickly.
Cabbage, Broccoli and Cauliflower
In February/March, we grow cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower seedlings for planting in March for spring harvesting. Choose winter type varieties such as small ball head cabbages. Last autumn we put in a purple sprouting broccoli which rewarded us with a bumper early spring harvest and some great colour in the garden as well.
It’s not too late for lettuce. Lettuce is more cold-tolerant than most people realise. Plant cos, mignonette and oakleaf varieties for picking. If you want lettuce through winter give them a little protection to keep them growing slowly. The amazing thing about lettuce is you can grow it all year round if you choose the right varieties. February/March is when we switch from the heat-tolerant varieties to the cold-tolerant ones.
Broad Beans, Garlic and Onions
Come Autumn, broad beans, garlic and onions go into the ground. We don’t expect to get any harvests from these until spring or early Summer. However, the goal is to get them established before winter.
Remember that any vegetables you have planted to harvest throughout winter are likely to bolt the moment the weather starts to warm in spring. However, these vegetables give you lots of fresh greens to put on your plate when nothing much is growing.
In our books, these vegetables are well worth the extra effort to keep them growing.