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vegetable garden
For a garden that keeps on giving throughout the winter months, now is the time to put in the work.

Harvest festival

A productive vegetable garden doesn’t have to end when summer does. There are many crops that can be planted in early autumn for a late autumn or winter harvest.

“The lingering warmth of the season makes it a great time to start cool season crops like brassicas, leeks, lettuces, peas, carrots, spinach, silverbeet, radishes, swedes and turnips,” says Waiuku gardener and Gardena ambassador Sarah O’Neil (sarahthegardener.co.nz). “But make sure you are growing cool season varieties for the best outcome.”

A person watering seedlings in a tray

Fast producers

The secret to success is, first and foremost, choosing plants that can endure the cold. Brassicas, for example, generally have broad leaves that efficiently collect solar energy during winter. Not only can these hardy vegetables withstand cooler temperatures – and light frosts – most are fast germinators, which is important for this time of year. While the soil is still warm, they can be sown directly into the bed, or sown in seed trays for transplanting when 8-10cm high. “Pay attention to keeping the soil moist, as seed trays dry out quickly, and protect brassica seedlings from the cabbage white butterfly, which will still be out and about,” says Sarah.

Garden author and community gardening ambassador Rachel Vogan (thehappygardener.co.nz) advises choosing your cool-season varieties based on what you’ll cook over winter. “My go-to autumn and winter vegetables are based around stews, soups and slaws. As soon as I can rip out summer crops, I am planting my staples for the colder months,” she says. For cooler regions, Rachel recommends planting seedlings, as opposed to seeds. “I forget about seeds as they are too slow, except for carrots and coriander,” she says.

Tip: To repel cabbage white butterflies, consider netting your brassicas or using garlic spray.

Cabbage white butterfly/Cabbage Moth (Mamestra brassicae) on a flower head

Seasonal salads

Rocket is an ideal autumn crop. Mustard greens are also hardy, as are kale, lamb’s lettuce, mizuna and miner’s lettuce. “With the right variety, a crispy green salad can provide a fresh crunch beside winter comfort food,” says Sarah O’Neil. “Try cos lettuce or lamb’s lettuce in the garden – these should withstand most New Zealand winter conditions. Or grow ‘cut and come again’ salad greens in a sunny spot indoors, or in a sheltered position on a patio or deck.”

Tip: Avoid planting the same type of brassica (such as cabbage) in the same spot as the previous year, as pests and diseases can linger in the soil.

Raised garden bed filled with vegetable greens

Flavour freeze

Certain vegetables actually taste better after a winter frost, as the freeze converts starches into sugars. These chill-loving vegetables include brussels sprouts, parsnips, savoy cabbage, kale, turnips and swedes.

For those vegetables that don’t like frosts (including some leafy lettuces, cucurbits such as cucumbers, courgettes, pumpkins, tomatoes, capsicums and beans), pay close attention to harvesting dates. The days might still be warm, but temperatures may drop considerably overnight and cause damage. “Keep an eye on the weather forecast so late season harvests can be done before the first frost,” recommends Sarah.

Tip: Radishes grow quickly in well-cultivated soil and can be harvested in four to six weeks.

Fresh red radish with green leaves, just plucked from the garden, in the hands of a gardener

Keep in mind:

  •  After applying fertiliser around edible plants, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before cooking and eating.
  • Safety tip: When using garden chemicals, always wear the appropriate safety equipment and always follow the product’s instructions.     

New to planting and growing crops?

Learn how to get started on your own vegetable garden with our easy step-by-step guide.


Photo Credit: Gap Photos/Carole Drake, Gap Photos and Getty Images.

Some photographs feature products from suppliers other than Bunnings.

Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.