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close up of home grown veggies
Find out what to plant for maximum pay off this autumn.

Patch to plate

There’s never been a better time to start an edible garden. Even if your thumbs aren’t the greenest, you can achieve success by following a few basic rules.

Getting started

The first step is choosing the right location. Vegetables thrive in full sun and rich well-draining soil. If space is limited, or water pools on the ground in winter, container gardening or raised beds can be viable alternatives.

Preparation is crucial to establish a flourishing vegetable patch. Enrich the soil with organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure. Or dig in sheep pellets. This creates a fertile foundation for your crops, promoting healthy growth and bountiful yields.

Plant seasonally

As autumn sets in, choose vegetables that thrive during the cooler months. Thrifty Kiwi blogger Cynthia Hancox (thriftykiwi.co.nz) suggests early planting for robust brassica growth before winter. “Brassicas (such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage) are recommended to plant for winter,” Cynthia says. “But be aware that growth slows to near dormancy once temperatures drop to 10°C and below.”

Professional Canterbury gardener Minette Tonoli suggests selecting cultivars to plant in early autumn that mature about 90 to 120 days from transplant. “You’ll reap the benefits with harvestable crops just as the patch to plate weather turns cold and active growing slows down,” she says.

Quick-maturing greens are great for winter salads. “Asian greens, such as bok choy and tatsoi, grow well during autumn and through much of winter. So does radicchio, endive, amaranth, mustards, mesclun, corn salad, miner’s lettuce, silverbeet and spinach.”

Herbs can be planted, too, says Minette. “Perennial woody herbs such as sage and rosemary can give harvests all through winter, while rocket, dill and coriander actually prefer the cooler growing seasons. Heat lovers like basil, when sown in autumn, will produce into winter on a sunny windowsill.”

Seeds vs seedlings

Starting from seed allows you to witness the entire growth cycle, but it requires patience. It’s cheaper than planting seedlings, as the number of seeds in a packet far exceeds the number of seedlings in one punnet.

Seeds can be started in seed trays for planting out when big enough (8-10cm tall), or sown directly in beds. Tunnel houses or greenhouses are ideal for growing vegies in cooler areas.

Bought seedlings are especially useful for cooler areas, where there may not be enough time for seeds to mature before frosts. Or start seeds on a windowsill or in a greenhouse, ready to plant out as seedlings when the weather warms up.

What to plant now

Compare the cost of buying seeds and seedlings to the prices you pay for fresh produce at the supermarket each week, and watch your savings grow!

Lettuce

Lettuce is excellent for containers or compact spaces, and can take as little as 10 weeks from sowing to harvesting. Seed will germinate in temperatures as low as 10°C so you can sow directly into the ground in early autumn, or in seed trays for later transplanting if the soil is cool. Space 15cm apart in full sun in autumn and winter. Plant a punnet of seedlings every two weeks for a constant supply. Seed packets range from $2 to $6 and often contain hundreds of seeds. *With lettuce from the supermarket costing between $3 to $5.50, that can be a substantial saving.

A single, green, buttercrunch lettuce head planted in soil

Silverbeet & English spinach

Both these low-maintenance leafy crops can be grown from seed – sown directly into soil, or started indoors or in a greenhouse in seed trays and transplanted. Prep the soil with compost and sheep pellets. If sowing directly, thin the seedlings when 10cm tall, leaving the strongest plants about 40cm apart for silverbeet and 30cm for spinach. A punnet containing six plants of each crop should be enough for a family of four. *Save big by buying a pack of seeds ranging from $2 to $6 or a punnet of seedlings for about $4, compared to about $5 price tag for a store-bought bunch.

Close up shot of silverbeet plants growing in vegetable garden

Carrots

Carrots can be sown now for a late autumn and winter harvest. There are numerous varieties to choose from, including short, round-bottomed carrots ‘Paris Market’, which make great lunch box snacks. Sow a selection of varieties, including orange, purple and yellow forms, every 3-4 weeks. *A packet of heirloom seeds costs $4 to $6 and each packet contains hundreds of small seeds, and potentially several kilos of crops. Thin out seedlings as they grow, leaving 5-8cm between plants, or closer if you intend to harvest them as tender baby carrots.

fresh ripe harvested carrots with stalks and leaves attached on the ground in the garden on the planting bed, covered in soil

Broccoli

While most plants produce just one or two main heads, once harvested, smaller heads will start to grow out from the sides. These are great for stir-fries. Sow seeds in seed trays or small pots. Transplant seedlings into the garden, or in tunnel houses in cooler areas, when they have 2-4 leaves. Or sow seeds directly into the garden in early autumn, spacing them about 45-60cm apart. Savings from sowing from seed are huge. *A pack of seeds costs between $2 to $6, while fresh broccoli ranges from $1.50 to $4 a head at the supermarket.

Close-up of an organic broccoli cluster growing on the end of the plant stalk

Bok choi

This Asian green is a great addition to the autumn garden as it thrives in cool weather, growing well into winter and spring. It’s quick growing and ready for harvest after sowing in as little as 7-8 weeks. Sow seeds directly in the garden, spaced about 20cm apart, and cover lightly with soil or seed-raising mix. If starting indoors, transplant seedlings after 3-4 weeks when they have a few leaves. Repeat sow every 3-4 weeks for successive crops. *One packet of seeds, costing about $4, can last an average-size household the whole season.

Green and white bok choy plants growing in vegetable garden

Radishes

These crisp and peppery root vegies can be harvested right through winter in warmer areas; in cooler areas try growing them in a greenhouse. * A bunch of radishes costs between $3 to $5 in supermarkets, but a packet of seeds starts at about $2 up to $6. Radishes prefer well-draining, loose soil enriched with organic matter. Sow the seeds directly in the garden bed or container, 6-8mm deep, and about 5cm apart. They are quick to produce, and ready to harvest in 20-30 days. Sow every 2-3 weeks for a continuous supply through autumn and winter.

Close up shot of two fresh radishes with stems and leaves attached, in a mulched garden bed

Maximise savings by planting from seed

Find out how with this easy-to-follow guide.

Pricing estimated on ‘in season’ supermarket pricing of the non-organic variant, correct at the time of writing. Harvest volume has been conservatively estimated; most crops grown in optimal conditions should produce more.

 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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.