The title of this post should probably read – Things to plant in Melbourne in Autumn, as all are well suited to a Melbourne winter. Having said that though, all these crops are frost tolerant and will grow in a broad range of climates provided they get a bit of cold, but not too too much. There are other crops I wouldn’t be without in winter; chard, parsley, beetroot, celery and mint spring immediately to mind but all these I planted long ago – during either Spring or Summer. The ones in this list are those that I wait until Autumn to plant, partially because I’m waiting for space but mostly because between now and June is the best time to be planting them.
1. Garlic – This is my absolute must plant crop. In Australia buying garlic often means buying a heavily sprayed, relatively flavourless product, laden with food miles. Most of our imported garlic comes from China but at some times of the year it travels even further – from Mexico or Spain. As a result I try and grow as much of my own garlic as possible. Aside from flavour and environmental reasons the other big big advantage of growing your own garlic is that you can harvest a portion of it green. Green garlic is one of the big delights for the home gardener. Garden To Wok has some lovely green garlic in her Harvest post this week, equally you’ll find an enjoyable spring dish of broad beans with green garlic under the broad beans tag on this blog.
I planted my garlic last weekend, I planted on a 15cm grid and sowed just over 100 cloves of both hard and soft necked varieties. Very excited to see how they all do.
2. Broad Beans – Broad (or Fava) Beans are one of those crops beloved of the kitchen gardener. They are good for the soil – they fix nitrogen (although I suspect they would fix a lot more of it if I dug them before they used most of it up by producing flowers and seed pods). They also produce delicious beans, which are hard to find if you don’t grow your own. A truly seasonal food you can really only get fresh broad beans for a short time each year. During this time I do sometimes become heartily sick of them but by the next year I will be longing to eat them once again. I sow my broad beans direct in May (when I usually have a bit of space in my beds) which means they crop in late Spring. If you sow at the start of Autumn they should crop much earlier in Spring.
3. Broccoli – So much has been written about the health benefits of broccoli that I wont bother rehashing it here. Suffice to say broccoli is good for you, tastes great, and it is also a great kitchen garden plant. I grow a lot of brassicas in winter: cauliflower, cabbages, mustard, radishes, romanesco and so on, but it is broccoli that I chose to feature here. This is largely because as a kitchen garden plant it is more convenient than the things like cauliflower, romanesco and cabbages which only crop once. Broccoli keeps on giving side shoots for weeks/months after you have harvested the main head. A hugely desirable quality in a garden where space is at a premium. Although you can theoretically grow broccoli all year round in Melbourne (I do find it bolts way too quickly in hot weather though) I find that by planting it out as seedlings in Autumn (it is a bit late to be sowing seed at this point) you tend to avoid the most annoying broccoli pests becoming too much of an issue. Cabbage White Butterflies tend to be less active at this time of the year, and to my mind more importantly, the flower heads are less likely to become infested with aphids if you are harvesting in winter.
4. Peas – I didn’t grow any peas last year, a tragic tale of procrastination and then crop decimation at the hands of slugs and snails. This meant that the supports that were to hold up peas ended up supporting an early planted tomato instead. As a result I have no pea photos. What I did learn from this experience though is that I really missed having fresh peas growing in the garden. Whether you grow normal peas, sugar snap, or snow peas Autumn is the time to plant. I planted some Greenfest peas today in fact, using some wrought iron fencing I got from a friend as supports. I hope they do well. At least this year I’ve sown them early enough that if I have any problems I still have time to sow again.
5. Onions/Shallots – I have grouped these together – naughty aren’t I? Last year I grew onions for the first time, and despite my frustrations with how damn long they take I was really really surprised how nice the home grown ones tasted. Now I don’t have nearly enough room to plant onions for storage but growing a few lovely red ones for using in salads I think is really worthwhile. I loved both the flavour and fresh texture of the ones I grew last year (variety: Red Shine) – really nice. Shallots too are great to grow. It is fascinating to watch them divide and divide and divide. The ones I planted out last year produced about 30 bulbs each which is a great return on the relatively small amount of space they take up. Between now and July is probably the best time to plant onions and shallots in Melbourne. I have yet to sow either – a project for the next few weeks. I plan to sow onion seed direct when space becomes available but the shallots I will start in pots and then position in any gaps that open up in the beds.
If you are looking for another Top 5 take the time to wander over to The New Good Life to see what she has come up with this week.