You can enjoy your own bounty of homegrown vegetables by following this easy garden guide for what to harvest, plant and sow in March
Picking beans every 3-5 days ensures plants will keep producing more flowers and therefore more pods. Cook the same day for the best taste. If you want to freeze them, traditionally beans are blanched for 3 minutes first, but some gardeners bag them up and just throw them straight in the freezer. This also works for silverbeet, spinach, even tomatoes for using later in soups and casseroles.
Best harvested just before or after the fruit falls, passionfruit will rot quickly or wither in the sun if left on the ground. It’s not always easy to spot the ripe ones in a very leafy vine so give it a gentle shake to make sure you don’t miss any. Keep vines well watered and fed for best fruiting. After harvesting cut out dying wood and brown tendrils as passionfruit hoppers often lay their eggs on those parts of the vine.
Dipping the ends of freshly picked globe artichoke leaves in lemon and butter and eating them is one of life’s sublime treats. Artichokes should be picked just before the young flower buds start to open, ideally when they are around 5-10cm in diameter. Cut stem about 8-10cm below the base of buds to keep them fresh for longer. Other buds will often form on the stalk so don’t chop them back too quickly after harvesting.
Kūmara are ready to harvest when their leaves turn yellow and die. To store them, you first need to remove the soil and leave the tubers to dry out in a shady spot for a week. Tubers should then last for 4-6 months if kept in a dry place at a cool temperature (13-16°C). If frosts are likely in your area dig them up sooner.
Tip: Liven up salads by adding edible flowers (or petals) from spray-free borage, nasturtium, daylily, heartsease pansy, cornflower and calendula. Use petals in ice cubes for dainty drinks, too. Easy to grow, you can plant these in the vege bed to pretty it up as well as attracting bees and other pollinators.
Broad beans can be sown directly into the garden as the weather cools, spaced 20cm apart and 5cm deep. Soil should be fertile, well drained and well dug. Garden beds should be sunny with plenty of air movement. Support will be needed for seedlings as they get taller.
Spinach is an ideal winter crop, highly nutritious and easy to grow. Sow seed (1cm deep) into beds that have had plenty of compost and other organic matter added beforehand. Thin out seedlings so plants are 5cm apart. Choose frost-hardy varieties in colder areas and protect young seedlings from frost. Regular watering is essential. In warmer areas silverbeet might be a better bet until the cooler weather arrives.
Onion seed can be sown in trays or into the ground now and throughout autumn in areas with only mild frosts. In colder areas wait until early spring. Germination takes around 14 days with harvesting in a minimum of 5 months, longer if weather is very cold. If you don’t have a lot of room, it is often better (and of course quicker) to grow onions from seedlings, though the range of varieties on offer will be more limited.
Broccoli seedlings can be planted out now into well-composted soil. Feed and water regularly for best crops. Space 45cm apart and plant reasonably deep as new roots will develop from the stem to support plants better as they mature. Keep sowing more seed until the end of autumn in warmer areas to ensure you have plenty of seedlings for a continuous crop through winter.
Red cabbages are more attractive in the garden than plain green ones, and they’re a great way to add colour and nutrition to salads and stir-fries. Even if you’re not a fan, try growing them for their decorative value and as companion plants, luring white butterflies away from other veges. Soil needs to be fertile and not too light for all cabbages, red or green.
Autumn is a good time to plant fruit trees provided there’s plenty of moisture in the ground. Subtropical fruit trees like avocado should only be planted in warmer areas at this time of year. Choose a grafted variety for faster fruiting and give your avocado tree plenty of space, well-drained, fertile soil and a good depth of mulch. Stake all fruit trees if planted in windy positions.
Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: Bauer Syndication.