Kitchen Garden: Autumn
In the Ross patch, Graham harvests dinner. Photo - Luisa Brimble
Autumn is the crowded moment in the vegetable garden when warm season vegetables reach their peak harvest and the cool season crops are keen to get in the ground. Here’s how we manage it.
Autumn planting plan
The Ross family patch has eight one-metre-square plots that are rotated. Here’s where they’re at this season:
1: Roots: 20 beetroot, 20 carrot, 20 radish
2: Legumes: 12 podded peas
3: Leafy greens: 20 lettuce, 4 rocket, 4 spinach, 3 rainbow chard
4: Roots: 6 kohrabi, 6 turnip, 6 swede
5: Brassica: 3 cabbage, 3 broccoli, 3 Tuscan kale
6: Legumes: 9 broad beans
7: Brassica: 3 cauliflower, 3 sprouting broccoli, 3 curly kale
8: Legumes: 6 sugar snap, 6 snowpeas
The cabbage family needs help against cabbage moth butterfly. We cover the brassica beds with arched metal or plastic pipe at least 1m above the beds and drape the frame with bird netting. Fake butterflies can also work to dissuade the territorial moths from landing. We’ve also found solar-powered butterflies do the trick.
Harvest broccoli and then plant more! Photo - joloei/Shutterstock.com
Nurture newly planted seedlings with seaweed solution. Seaweed creates a strong, deep root system and strong cell walls. Water in at planting time and repeat monthly.
Podding peas like 'Greenfeast' get a wriggle on, using tendrils to climb. Photo - Shutterstock.com
Peas are best grown from seed. If you dry and collect the seed at the end of the season you’ll only ever have to buy pea seed once! Add a little garden lime before sowing and avoid sowing during rain.
Easter is garlic-planting time. We plant 100-150 cloves about 5cm deep and the harvest supplies the family all year. Buy garlic bulbs from a reputable organic supplier.
Break open cloves and plant individually. Photo - sarsmis/Shutterstock.com
Sow a square of parsnip, using fresh seed. Don’t delay as cool soil will impede germination.
Plant a patch of Florence fennel bulbs. They are delicious thinly sliced with smoked salmon and lemon juice and can also be let go to seed to attract beneficial bugs such as ladybirds.
Eggplant tends to ripen in late autumn. Don’t let them get too old or they will develop bitter flavours in the seeds.
Pick figs when fully ripe and nearly splitting as they don’t ripen off the tree. Eat them dolloped with double cream, roasted with prosciutto, bubbled into jam or swirled through ice cream.
Wait till figs split before picking, they don't ripen off the tree. Photo - muharremz/Shutterstock.com
Chilli season is starting. Feed plants to increase the yield and consider your preserving options: dry them; cook them into chilli jam; infuse them in olive oil. Check Garden Clinic online for more ideas.
Coriander and parsley grow like weeds through the cooler weather. Whiz them up into a green salsa verde with lime juice, rocket and sorrel and spoon over fish or through pasta.
Empty out mature compost into vegetable beds before planting out autumn veg.
Photo - Linda Ross
Sever strawberry runners away from the mother plant. Replant into a newly manured strawberry bed, 15cm apart.
Dig up turmeric and ginger tubers that have grown throughout summer. Store in the freezer. Grate fresh into curries and vegetable braises, or add a kick to a smoothie.
Protect ripening figs from birds by stringing up bird netting over a plastic pipe frame or tent. Keep the netting off the leaves. Keep fig plants low enough to make this an easy job by pruning hard in winter.
Leave room for another tepee of peas later in the season to stretch the pea harvest into spring.