Consider this your Autumn planting guide! Here’s what to harvest, plant and sow in the garden during the month of April
What to harvest in the garden in Autumn
– Pick up passionfruit as it drops to avoid sun damage and rotting.
– Harvest eggplant, capsicum, corn, cucumber, courgette, tomato and other late-summer vegetables. Make green tomato relish if it’s getting too cold for the last of your crop to ripen.
– Pumpkin, butternuts and squash should all be ready to harvest now. A good way to check is to knock the skin; if it makes a hollow sound, you’re good to go. Dry in the sun for a week or two to harden skin and leave part of the stalk to make them last longer.
– Grapes should be ready to pick on most vines by now. Protect from birds as they ripen.
– Pick quince when skin is golden yellow. Use to make paste, jelly or poached fruit.
– Don’t leave kumara in the ground if it’s getting colder in your area. Even if tops haven’t died back or turned yellow, dig them up if frosts are likely. Drying kumara on the ground in a shady spot cures tubers, allowing them to be stored for longer. Kumara that have been stored taste even sweeter.
What to sow in the garden in Autumn
– Sow rocket seed in trays and plant out when seedlings are 5-10cm high, or sow directly into the ground. Feed seedlings with liquid fertiliser and water regularly especially if the weather is still hot in your area.
– Keep the kids interested in gardening by sowing peas for them to pick straight off the vine. You can sow directly into the garden in warmer areas if soil is kept moist. Sow a few different kinds – sugar snap and snow peas, golden peas, there’s even a heritage dwarf pea called ‘Tom Thumb’ which is great in pots (available from kingsseeds.co.nz).
– For a tasty alternative to cabbages sow seed for kohlrabi for harvesting in spring. Popular in India and eastern Europe, this frost-hardy brassica likes moist ground and plenty of sun.
– The vegetable du jour is kale and now is a good time to sow seed. As with all leafy greens, sowing seed in trays then planting seedlings out when they’re a little bigger means there is less chance of snails and slugs ravaging their leaves.
– Seed for other winter greens to sow now includes silverbeet, spinach, cabbages, broad beans, carrots and salad greens.
– Choose winter-hardy varieties of lettuce or try frost-tolerant mizuna, mibuna or miner’s lettuce.
– Sow bok choy directly into the garden or into peat boxes which can be planted into the ground without removing seedlings as they don’t like their roots being disturbed.
– Gather your own passionfruit seed from a healthy fruit by mixing seed with water and leaving it to ferment for three days. Sieve and dry seed then sow into pots for planting out in spring.
What to plant in Autumn
– Seedlings of broad beans, broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower and cabbage can go into the garden now if it’s not too frosty. Don’t plant cabbages and other brassicas in beds where you have grown plants of the same group as this can exacerbate the risk of disease. Straight after peas or beans is ideal.
– In warmer areas plant well-established (15cm high) leek seedlings into holes about 10cm deep so they develop a long white shank. Space them 10cm apart. Leeks can bolt (flower) in very cold weather.
– Celery can also bolt in very cold weather so only plant out if frosts aren’t an issue. Pick a sunny spot and good-sized seedlings.
– Cuttings of thyme, oregano, sage and other perennial herbs. Make sure pieces have plenty of roots.
– Plant strawberries once weather cools (wait until spring in southern areas), 25-30cm apart, with the crown level with soil. Sprinkle a mix of equal parts dolomite, sulphate of potash and blood and bone around plants.
Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photos by: Bauersyndication.com.au.