Savour, save and sow

Now that you've harvested the salad greens, tomatoes, onions, sweet corn, courgettes and beetroot, what's next for the garden?

When a crop's planting cycle has come to its natural end, here's what to do to keep your garden on track for a continued supply of home-grown fruit and vegetables.

The unwanted parts of your plants can be chopped up and composted for next season's plant food – unless the plant is diseased, in which case burn it or remove it from the garden.

Allow some plants to run to seed and then collect the seeds for storage and planting next year. Let a couple of the healthiest lettuce, spinach and carrot plants form seed heads after flowering. When dried out, carefully snip off the head and shake over paper to release the seeds. Similarly leave a corn cob, capsicum, chilli or a few pods of your peas and beans on the plant to dry and wrinkle. Then split them to salvage the seed. 'Dry' is the key word here – the weather, seeds and storage jars must all be dry for successful collection.

Try robust winter greens and root crops:

  • Silver beet, leeks, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli seeds can now be raised in seed trays or seedlings purchased and planted straight in the garden.
  • Cabbages need cool weather and slow growth to develop compact heads, so don't feed once established – savoy cabbage is especially cold resistant and is therefore an excellent winter crop.
  • Root crop seeds of carrot, turnip and swede can now be sown directly into a well dug-over vege patch.

Young winter vegetable plants benefit from a good feed of compost or blood and bone to gain strength for the bleak approaching winter, and if autumn yields dry periods, don't forget to water in the mornings.

The enemies of winter veges are birds, caterpillars and Jack Frost. Use fine netting to prevent pests and try placing clear polythene tunnels (cloches) over plants to keep the frost at bay.

First published: Mar 2010

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