Sowing and Growing in Autumn ‘Down Under’

By Camilla

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Some growing tips for Autumn time in Australia, from a PFFA supporter.

For those of us ‘Down Under’ in the southern hemisphere, autumn begins in March. This time of year is often referred to as harvest time as all those summer crops like tomatoes begin to ripen and wilt. Often at these late stages of their lifespan, seasonal plants fall prey to pests and diseases. My cucumbers caught powdery mildew and the leaves began to wilt. Rather than treat these diseases, take it as a sign to uproot some old things and start afresh! Now is also a great time for seed collection and storage for next years’ crops.

My top 3 seeds to sow in Autumn

Garlic: Technically a bulb I know. If you’re reading this article as it comes out, you might have ‘missed the boat’ so to speak with garlic. There is a saying that garlic should be planted by Saint Patrick’s day on March 17th for the biggest juiciest cloves. If it’s too late, I vote that you may as well try it anyway as gardening is all about experimentation. Garlic cloves should be planted a thumbs length deep and a hand apart on all sides with the pointy end up as this is where the shoot emerges. Yes, supermarket cloves are generally fine to use. Once planted water regularly and feed regularly but otherwise ignore. When the stalks turn dry and begin to topple over they are ready to harvest. Simply uproot the entire plant. It’s very fun. This will probably be 9 MONTHS later. A real invest in your future type of crop…. garlic is potentially worth the wait. Don’t be disappointed if your cloves are small as these often have the strongest flavour. Be sure to save the best cloves for re-planting. If dried correctly garlic also has an extremely long shelf life. How fantastic?

Onions: Onions come in many glorious forms. Lots of seed packets are available for varieties you may never see at your supermarket. Such as the disk shaped Cipollini. Different types of onions can be sown at different times of the year. This autumn season I’m going to sow brown onions, boring I know, because they can be used in almost every savoury dish. Seeds are very small and look like little specks of dirt so take care when sowing. Many seeds can be sown to germinate. When the seedling emerges and is at 2cm long divide into rows 30cm apart with 10cm between each seedling and the next. Brown onions need about 6 months to grow. When the plant’s leaves turn yellow it’s time to harvest. Again, simply uproot the entire plant!

Carrots: Carrots have a long growing season. In Australia the seeds can be sown from January through to May. My veggie garden is usually overflowing in the summer season and space is precious; so carrots have to wait till autumn. When sowing the seeds, using your fingertip to create long shallow lines works as well as any method. Sprinkle seeds along the line, I usually add a few extra as they won’t all germinate (sprout). Once sown, cover with a VERY thin layer of earth and water gently. Carrots prefer a full sun position. Keep the soil damp whilst awaiting germination, usually less than a week. Knowing when to harvest is simple. The round top of the carrot will probably pop out of the soil. Harvest when it looks good enough to eat, usually 2-4 months depending on the variety.

Other seeds you might like to try sowing in Autumn

Broad Beans – may need staking or structural support.

Beetroot – not a personal favourite of mine.

Broccoli – requires a larger amount of space and can attract pests.

Cauliflower – also requires a larger amount of space and can attract pests.

Cabbage – versatile

Radish – possibly the cutest vegetable

Lettuce – known as the gift that keeps on giving, as can be grown year round in frost free climates.

Have a crack. Nothing tastes better than food you’ve grown yourself. And you’ll learn as much from your mistakes as your successes.

Happy sowing

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