Autumn is an excellent time to get out into your garden and go elbow deep in dirt. It’s the best planting season – the weather is cooler, but the ground is still warm and the summer blooms are giving way to autumn growth. If you want to get planting but don’t know what vegetables to plant in autumn what, or flowers grow best in autumn, then here’s a short but handy guide to some options!
Autumn Vegetable Garden
1. Baby Spinach
No matter how much or how little space you have, baby spinach is a great vegetable for the season. Plant them in pots or in shallow beds, with seeds about 1cm deep into soil. Keep this leafy green well-watered and in partial shade so it doesn’t dry out – and watch for slugs! Medania, Hector, and Giant Noble spinach are good varieties to try.
With the hot and dry summer months over, radishes are perfect for the cooler weather of autumn (or even spring). Radish grows quickly, so you can harvest in about six weeks! To plant, sow the seeds at a depth of about 2cm, and keep them 10cm apart if possible. Water in moderation, and don’t use fertiliser high in nitrogen. If you have a backyard vegetable garden, try planting radishes in between your other crops – they make excellent companion plants!
One of the kings of flavour, garlic is a great plant for the autumn season. Pick a warm, sunny spot in your garden and plant garlic cloves about 5cm deep. Water whenever the soil gets dry, keep the area weed-free, and snip off any garlic flowers (try them in a stir-fry!). These are slow-growing vegetables, though, so don’t bank on a harvest until spring!
4. Broccoli and Cauliflower
These brassicas thrive in more temperate seasons, with plenty of sun to help them grow. Condition your soil ahead of time with compost, since brassicas are susceptible to pests. Broccoli is best planted directly in your garden, with seeds sown 2-4cm deep and 15cm apart. Thin them out as they grow, and harvest after 6-8 weeks – just before winter. Cauliflower, on the other hand, will grow better if you start your seedlings indoors until they’re 6 weeks old. Transplant them into your garden for another 2-3 weeks of growth. Keep the ground moist, but don’t get the vegetable heads too wet!
Never have to run out to the shops to complete your salad again. Pick the best variety of lettuce to grow in autumn – this includes loose leaf or cos lettuce. The good thing about these types is you can pick the outer leaves for consumption while the central head continues growing. To grow, just sow the lettuce seeds in your garden, or start them in trays and transplant after 4-6 weeks. Space them 20-30cm apart so they have room to grow. Keep plants in partial shade, and water daily to prevent them drying out. You can even grow them alongside your other autumn vegetables!
6. Snow Peas
These are excellent crops at this time of year, since snow peas thrive best in cool weather. Make sure to condition the soil with plenty of mulch or compost beforehand – but low on nitrogen! You can also soak pea seeds overnight before planting. Sow at a depth of about 5-10cm and keep seedlings in the shade. Don’t let them dry out while they’re germinating. The reward is peas that are sweet enough to pluck straight off the vine for a snack!
This is a temperamental herb, but if you love the flavour, coriander is an excellent addition to your garden at this time of year. Pot it in soil that drains well, and plant the seed about 0.5cm deep. Keep coriander plants out of direct sunlight, give them time to germinate, and don’t let them crowd each other out! When it’s time to harvest, you can cut the leaves as necessary, or pluck the whole plant in one go. And don’t forget to save seed casings to replant!
Oregano is a perennial herb that’s very versatile when it comes to cooking. It can grow well in both garden beds and pots, and is fairly drought-tolerant once established. Just make sure the plants have plenty of sunlight, with well-mulched soil and plenty of water. You can start oregano from nursery plants, but with some patience, you can grow them from seed, too!
Parsley plants are best grown in early spring or autumn. This versatile herb has many uses both in and out of your kitchen – it’s a topping, a flavour accent, and even an ornamental plant! You can start it from a nursery seedling, or grow them by yourself from seed. Sow seeds 1cm deep and 2-5cm apart in soil that drains well, with partial shade. Keep plants well-watered but not too wet to encourage germination. If you’re growing them indoors, make sure you’re not using a soil potting mix!
A favourite kitchen staple, thyme is a low-maintenance herb that’s easy to grow both outdoors or in pots. All this plant needs is plenty of sunlight and some organic matter (like compost) to get it going. Plant 1-2cm deep, and only water when the soil is drying out. Thyme self-propagates readily, so thin the leaves on occasion so your plants don’t get too crowded. And make sure you get an edible variety – ornamental thyme won’t add any flavour to your chicken!
The yellow blooms of the tarragon herbs add an extra aesthetic element to this plant before it goes dormant for winter. Grow these in full sun or partial shade, with well-drained soil. You can start them off as seedlings from a local nursery to make things easier. Water well while the plants are germinating, but cut back to twice a week after they’re established. When you harvest your herbs, cut down to the stems – it’ll encourage more growth!
These gorgeous red flowers add vibrance to any garden. Poppies thrive best in cooler weather, so autumn and spring are their best seasons. They’re easy to sow – just sprinkle seeds on tilled ground and let them propagate. Choose locations with plenty of sunlight and moist ground – spray softly while the plants germinate. When your seedlings emerge, thin them out so there’s 20cm between plants. Feed well with fertiliser every few weeks, and reap the reward of a beautiful red view.
With their small pink, white, purple, and cream blooms, alyssum are excellent colour accents – try them in hanging baskets, or along a fence border! These plants benefit most from plenty of sunlight and regular watering, with soil that drains well. Start them off in pots or trays, then transplant after the seedlings are about 4cm tall. Layer the ground with plenty of organic matter to give them a boost while they grow. If you want that rustic aesthetic, scatter the seeds randomly throughout your garden and leave them to bloom!
3. Sweet Pea
Plant these during autumn so they’ll bloom through winter into early spring. In fact, you can follow the Aussie tradition of planting these on St Patrick’s Day. These florals will need plenty of sunlight and good drainage to thrive – and stakes or a trellis to climb. Plant them in moist ground, then don’t water the plants again until they’ve sprouted. Pluck regularly to keep the plant flowering longer. Mix and max varieties for a full range of colourful blooms!
These pretty blue florals prefer mild climates, so plant in autumn or spring. Sow seedlings or seeds 1cm deep and 5cm apart. After the plants start sprouting, thin to about 20cm apart. Keep them in full sun, and water moderately. Cornflower blooms are excellent cuttings, since their vibrant colours display well – so grow them outside, then trim some flowers to bring indoors and brighten up your house!
Between planting autumn crops and blooms, and preparing your garden for winter, don’t skip out on maintaining your garden properly to keep your plants thriving. This season is the best time to get out and grow, so take advantage while you can! If you’re new to gardening, feel free to consult a professional or local nursery for help in growing your plants, or determining what to plant in autumn to best fit your yard.