5 cool-weather crops to start readying before autumn

Photo: Matt Quéréé

Start sowing and planting these crops before cooler weather sets in.

Words: Extract from Nadia: A Seasonal Journal

1. Brassicas

Sow brassica seeds, such as broccoli, cauliflower, mizuna, sprouting broccoli, and kohlrabi in seedling trays in late summer or early autumn for a winter crop, harvested about 10 to 12 weeks later.

Brassicas planted outside during the summer can attract the dreaded white butterfly caterpillar so start seedlings inside or away from other crops.

2. Sow silverbeet

Known as Swiss chard in North America, silverbeet grows year-round and is an excellent vegetable for beginner gardeners because it’s tolerant of heat and cold, disease-resistant and prolific.

From seed to harvest, silverbeet takes eight weeks. If sowing from seed, soak the seeds for several hours before planting into seed-raising trays. Transplant into the garden when the seedlings are about 10cm in size and plant 25cm apart. If planting seedlings in the warmer months, make sure they are kept well-watered.

Varieties to try: ‘Argentata’, an Italian heirloom with wide leaves and a good flavour; ‘Bright Lights’ (rainbow chard), an heirloom variety with colourful stalks.

3. Coriander

This fast-growing herb is easy to grow from seed, but it’s best to wait until slightly cooler weather in autumn as it tends to bolt and go to seed in the heat of the summer. If you already have some coriander planted, let it go to seed over summer and it will self-sow and you’ll have a new crop of coriander for next season.

4. Winter carrots

Carrot seedlings have delicate root systems and don’t like to be transplanted, so sow directly into the vegetable patch. Sow seeds in late summer and early autumn when the temperatures are still warm, for a winter crop of carrots 70 to 80 days later.

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Make sure the soil is rich with well-rotted compost and free of stones and obstructions such as sticks or other roots. Carrot seeds are tiny, so it’s impossible not to sow extra seedlings. Thin the plants when they are about 5cm high at a distance of 5cm between each plant to avoid overcrowding.

Varieties to try: ‘Amsterdam Sprint’ (heirloom, baby carrots, sweet, crisp); ‘Paris Market’ (small round globes, perfect for snacking); ‘Scarlet Nantes’ (popular all-round carrot, for storing, juicing or general); Yates seed tape ‘Manchester Table’.

5. Celery

Sow celery seed in early autumn, and it will be ready to harvest in about 60 days. It can be planted out in hotter months as long as it is kept well hydrated. It will also tolerate being planted in the boggier part of the garden.

Nadia This article first appeared in Nadia: A Seasonal Journal Magazine.
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