Seeds to sow now: Broccoli, beetroot, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, radish, silverbeet, spring onions, swedes, turnips
Plant from punnets now: Broccoli, beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, silverbeet, spring onions, spinach
Preparing the Autumn Garden
Early autumn is usually a time of abundant harvests in the vegetable patch. However, it's also a time to plant winter crops so you may need to clear some room. If you're removing spent crops from the garden, instead of ripping them from the soil, just chop them down at soil level. This way the root ball, which is still a viable food source for the soil life, is left in to break down. Spreading a fresh layer of compost over these roots will speed up the breaking down process. Read more about the soil life.
If you had a full summer garden you may feel daunted at how much green waste there is once you start cutting down spent plants. Don't worry though, if you let them break down in a compost pile or even let them break down directly in your garden, these plants will soon become part of the soil.
I love a chop and drop method; simply chop down and chop up the plants right where they are and let them become the mulch.
Winter Vegetables and Bridging the Gaps
Keep sowing winter brassicas, a little bit every fortnight.
Crops like bok choy, pak choy, radish, turnips, lettuces and beetroot means you can have something to harvest while you wait for your bigger autumn and winter crops to grow.
Beetroot and turnips are delicious when young and small, they're especially tender and sweet then. Their leaves can be harvested as well as the root too.
Sow a Green Cover Crop
Any gardens that are having a break over the winter will benefit from having a cover crop sown.
This means sowing seeds that will create a cover over your soil so it's not left bare in winter. This keeps the micro-organisms and bacteria under your soil fed and happy. It also suppresses weed growth and helps keep the nutrients in your soil.
Some cover seeds also provide nitrogen as some are 'nitrogen fixers'. Seeds such as blue lupin, lucerne and broad beans are nitrogen-fixing which means they take up nitrogen from the soil and 'fix' it in these small nodules at the end of their roots. Come spring, you can chop down this cover crop and let it break down back into the soil. The nitrogen from these little nodules will then be released back into the soil in a form that other plants can then take up and absorb.
Try your hand at seed saving so you can save money next time. It does pay to know if your seeds are hybrids or heirlooms, or if there was a chance of cross pollination in the garden. Read more about cross-pollination.
For cucurbit seed saving, let them grow huge and let their skin harden. Once mature, you can scoop the seeds out from the middle and wash them well to remove the pulp. Once collected, let the seeds dry out completely on a tray before storing in a dry, cool and dark place.
Beans seeds can be collected by letting the pods dry completely on the vine until they rattle when you shake them.
Tomato seeds can be squished out on a paper towel and left to dry.
Biennials such as carrots, celery and parsnip will go to seed in their second year. Let them flower and the seed pods form. Once they're brown the seed heads can be cut off and place in a paper bag or tray and shaken to remove the seeds.
Store all seeds once they are completely in a cool, dry and dark place.