Best Autumn Plants to Grow

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In what is commonly thought of the lesser of the two growing seasons, we can still become overwhelmed by the number of planting choices available. That's because in our mild climate with its mild winters, the cool season presents an abundance of opportunities.

Varieties that typically fall into the spring planting calendar in the northern hemisphere, such as peas, broccoli and broad beans, are kind enough to grace our patch now. The skill is in deciding what plant will present the most value and is most likely to succeed. If the cool season is typical of one thing (other than choices), it is pests that seem to revel in the abundance of opportunities themselves. 

So we present you our top 5 autumn varieties. We've selected them based on a few things, such as yield value, ease to grow and resistance to disease. But we've also thrown in our own personal 'je ne sais quoi', which is that thing we can't describe, something so intangible, but a reason nonetheless why we want to grow it. We also include the best methods for getting them set and exempt from the pests that tend to wreak havoc.


1. Silverbeet

Yield Value 5

Ease to Grow 5

Resistance to Pest 5

Je Nais Se Quoi 3

What we like to refer to as the Border Collie of the vegetable world. In fact, it's the Border Collie of the Border Collies, because it is just so easy to please. In the family of easy to please leafy greens, Silverbeet (or Chard) is always happy to fetch a ball and then return it to you. And then fetch another four.

If you're looking for yield value, ease of growth and resistance to pest all wrapped up in a bunch of textured, nutritious leaves and stems, Silverbeet should be your plant of choice. Although it is yet to sit atop the mantle of superfood, unlike its friends Kale and Spinach that have appeared on Oprah, it is a willing substitute for both. It is so jammed packed full of vitamins and phytonutrients that a guest appearance can't be far off.

Getting the young seedlings set early is the greatest challenge (if it could be called that), so choose a planting day that that is neither to cold or too hot, and keep them well hydrated. It will tolerate partial shade, but like all vegetables, thrive best in fun sun or very brightly lit spaces. Prepare your soil with compost and some slow release nitrogen high fertilizer and if you really want to send your Border Collies wild, give them an application of seaweed extract once a month. 

The plants can be productive for over a year and even when they go to seed, they typically don't turn bitter. And that's the beauty of a great pet, it's always loyal.

2. Broad beans

Yield Value 4

Ease to Grow 3

Resistance to Pest 4

Je Nais Se Quoi 5

Broad beans are the tomato of the cool season, and the plant we get particularly excited about when the weather begins to cool. They also share a special relationship with their warm season counterpart, as the perfect crop rotation to help replenish nitrogen in the soil. Tomato, a heavy feeder, leaves the patch depleted and so broad beans, a member of the nitrogen fixing legume family, come in to do the repair work.

This is also a plant that spoils us for harvesting choices. Despite most waiting for the ultimate prize, the entire plant is edible including their stem, leaves, flowers and of course pods, eaten whole or podded. The idea of root to bloom eating is to look outside mainstream produce and explore the offerings that each plant presents. Within a broad bean there are many.

When planting we prefer to sow directly from seed, which we soak for 24 hours prior. As a hard coated seed that will lay deep in the soil (3-4cm), it will appreciate this extra supply of water to draw from which will also assist it in breaking down its exterior. Choose a sunny position and reinvigorate your soil with some compost prior to planting. Once sown, give the patch a good soaking every couple of days, and then watch out for rats that can take a likely to those juicy, freshly germinated shoots. We've found that rodents have a distaste for spearmint concentrate, which we like to bomb around the patch when the seedlings are young. Grab some concentrate from the supermarket and place capfuls around the patch, protected from any rainfall. 


3. Broccolini

Yield Value 3

Ease to Grow 3

Resistance to Pest 3

Je Nais Se Quoi 5

Autumn is brassica season, and despite the challenges that come with growing nitrogen hungry, pest prone crops, we feel like the cool season isn't complete without one. And we have always favoured broccolini, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a regenerative plant that produces an abundance of secondary heads after the primary harvest. Secondly, because of all the brassicas it is the first to produce for the plate. And then finally, because in the White Cabbage Moth's hit list - which is long and detailed - it seems to sit a little behind some others. 

The first part of planting any brassica, which you hope will be more than just fodder for the moth's caterpillars, is to erect an exclusion net. Usually bird netting won't suffice as the holes are roughly moth size. It's like jail bars large enough for the prisoner to squeeze right through. And the White Cabbage Moth is a danger to our brassicas and needs to be kept off our streets. 

Use insect netting and then plant young seedlings in a soil that has been reinvigorated with plenty of compost and well rotted manure. Slow release pelletized fertilizer will also suffice. Keep them well watered early on and look to remove the netting once we enter winter and the moths/caterpillars begin to die off. 

4. Beetroot

Yield Value 4

Ease to Grow 4

Resistance to Pest 4

Je Nais Se Quoi 4

Beetroot is an all round performer that does well at any time of the year, but it is particularly suited to autumn planting. Once the roots begin to develop (approaching winter) the cold in the soil helps to convert the starches into sugars and so the real treasure can be experienced.

Early on beetroot seedlings can be susceptible to snail and slug attack and so we like to set off a couple of traps to curb any potential damage. Beer traps, copper (or aluminium) tape, good mulching and nasturtium as a decoy are all tasks that don't require a lot of effort and are part of running an efficient cool season garden. They go a long way to minimise the threat of pests throughout the season for everyone. 

Sow directly from seed, which should be soaked in water overnight prior to planting. Why not explore some more unusual varieties, such as cream rings or touchstone gold? They are no harder to grow but will add some extra delight come harvest time.


5. Coriander

Yield Value 4

Ease to Grow 3

Resistance to Pest 3

Je Nais Se Quoi 5

Coriander is often mistaken as a warm season variety, and so nurseries have spent decades chasing their tales trying to concoct the slowest bolting varieties. The truth, however, is that all coriander will bolt to seed once the weather turns warm, and that this variety thrives best in our cooler seasons, namely autumn and winter.

Given that autumn can still throw up some minor heat waves, chose a planting day that isn't too hot or at the beginning of a hot streak. Favour a space that collects morning sunlight rather than afternoon and keep it well hydrated. Other than heat stress, coriander suffers and meets a premature demise if left thirsty.

Planted from seed or seedling, make sure the patch is invigorated with compost and some slow release fertilizer or if planting in pots, use vessels that are at least 30cms wide and deep and use good quality organic potting mix.

If for some reason you plants shoot off to seed, don't waste any of the produce. Much like broad bean, coriander presents a number of root to bloom harvesting opportunities, as so going to seed isn't such a bad thing

6 - 10. Here are some more varieties, worthy of a patch entrance come the cool season. Peas, Radish, Celery, Spring onion, Garlic. We love you guys too.



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