With autumn just around the corner it’s a great time to get a head start on your autumn and winter vegetable garden!
If you haven’t already it’s a great idea to start planning your winter crops now for how you would like them roughly arranged in the garden, so you can sow some seeds in trays and get a head start on your productive winter wonderland.
In the meantime keep enjoying the delicious harvests from your summer garden, plus don’t forget to keep on top of any weeds that may have popped up and need attending to.
What to sow in March and beyond
There are many vegetables that are great for planting as the weather begins to cool over the next few months.
If you’re a fan of leafy greens we have a range of popular options including Cabbage Tatsoi, Cress American Upland, Kale Cavolo Nero, Lettuce Little Gem, Spinach Perpetual, and Fordhook Giant Beet (also known as Silverbeet or Swiss Chard). All of these varieties are ideal for use as baby leaf and can be harvested as required to provide you with a sustained harvest for many weeks.
Pea WF Massey the classic garden pea in NZ is another popular variety for the cooler weather, along with highly versatile Spring Onions like our top selling White Lisbon. Other great options include root vegetables like Beetroot Detroit Dark Red (typically ready to harvest in about 60 days), or Carrot Topweight, both of which are regarded for their bountiful and delicious harvests.
While root vegetables are typically best sown direct, most leafy greens can be sown into trays for transplanting into your garden a few weeks later. Many gardeners favour the use of transplanting over sowing direct, as it allows better dependability and control over the initial growing conditions. Leafy greens are generally loved by garden pests like snails too, and so transplanting can help to prevent this being an issue.
By sowing into trays and then transplanting out once the seedlings have several true leaves, you can enhance your rates of success while also having more accuracy over where each seedling grows.
Harvest, harvest, harvest
Remember to keep harvesting regularly from your summer garden to encourage more fruiting and extend your harvesting period.
Continue picking your tomatoes and pinching out any late growing laterals so the plant’s energy goes into the fruit rather than leaves.
If you are growing eggplants they should be picked once their glossy skin deepens in colour but before the fruit softens (as it can start to go a little bitter).
Pumpkin vines will typically start to die back with their leaves turning yellow and drying up to indicate that your pumpkins are fully mature. If you want to be extra sure each pumpkin is ready, a ripe pumpkin should produce a hollow sound when knocked solidly with your knuckle, so give it a quick knock test before cutting it off the vine.
Watermelons are much the same but also pay attention to the pale coloured patch underneath the melon, as even if it doesn’t sound hollow when knocked the watermelon is ready to eat when its sitting spot has turned yellow.
Finally, as your summer garden comes to its natural end for this season, don’t forget to clear out dead plants so you can make room for your fresh autumn seedlings.
It can be easy to forget about your autumn and winter garden when summer produces many of our favourites, but getting the jump on the cold weather and shorter sunlight days will pay you back with beautiful homegrown harvests that you’ll appreciate in time to come.