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Best vegetables for Spring gardening in Australia

Spring gardening in Australia

Spring in Australia is almost here and it’s time to start getting ready to plant. Spring gardening in Australia is exciting, as the warm weather causes plants to wake from their winter slumber and burst forth with new growth. It is the perfect time of year to plant a variety of fruits and veggies. And they not only have the benefit of looking great, but they taste great too! You’ll also save money in the long term. Tending lovingly to your plants will result in healthy harvests that the whole family will enjoy.

With the weather getting warmer, spring is the perfect time to start planting flowers, fruit trees, vegetables and herbs. However, what you can grow also depends on the soil conditions and climate where you live. With a climate as diverse as Australia’s, it’s important to know which plants are best suited to your region so that you get the best results in your garden.

If you start with seedlings, you could be harvesting fresh produce from some of them in a matter of weeks! If you start with seeds, it may take a little longer.

Of course, some of the vegies – such as pumpkin – take many months to produce their crop, so you’ll be eating from your garden with these selections well into autumn.

Appropriate spring fruits and veggies by region in Australia

Because Australia’s climate ranges from the tropical heat of the north to the bitter chill of the south, different plants will grow well in different places. 

So what do you need to know about planting fruits and veggies in the Australian spring? Here are your best fruit and veggie options by region:

Wet & Dry Tropical (includes: North Queensland, NT & WA)

Herbs – basil, coriander, lemongrass, mint and tarragon.

Vegetables – artichoke, beetroot, capsicum, cauliflower, celery, chinese cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, pumpkin, radish, shallots, spring onion and tomato.

Subtropical (includes: South-east Qld & Northern NSW)

Herbs –  basil, chives, coriander, fennel, gotu kola, heliotrope, lemongrass, mint, parsley, tarragon and winter savoury.

Vegetables –  artichoke, beans, capsicum, celery, chinese cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, melons, okra, onion, potato (tubers), rosella, silver beet, spring onion, squash, sweet corn, sweet potato and tomato.

 Dry Inland (includes: Arid or Outback areas)

It’s recommended that arid inland areas have most of their fruits and veggies planted before spring comes around, as the dry heat can damage developing seedlings.

Herbs – basil will grow very quickly in hot weather, though keep it watered well for a tasty harvest.

Vegetables –  try warm loving capsicum, pumpkin, okra, tomato, leek, melons, radish, cucumber and sweet corn.

Keep established plants well watered & under shade if possible. Mulch well.

Mediterranean (includes: Adelaide & Perth)

Herbs – keep picking the flowers off parsley and basil to prevent them from bolting to seed.  

Vegetables – tomatoes, zucchini and capsicum by the end of January. Spray apples and pears against codling moth.

Temperate Areas (includes: Sydney, coastal NSW & Victoria)

Herbs – basil, chives, coriander, fennel, gotu kola, heliotrope, lovage, mint, parsley and tarragon.

Vegetables – beans (dwarf and climbing), beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chicory, chilli, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, endive, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, okra, parsnip, potato (tubers), radish, rhubarb (crowns), shallots, silver beet, spring onion, sweet corn, sweet potato and zucchini.

Cool & Southern Tablelands (includes: Melbourne, Tasmania & cool highlands)

Herbs – basil, chives, coriander, lemongrass, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon and thyme.

Vegetables – beans, beetroot, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, cauliflower, cucumber, English spinach, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, onion, parsnip, pumpkin, radish, silver beet, spring squash, swede, sweet corn, tomato, turnip and zucchini.

How to start your spring gardening:

The very first thing is to decide what you want to grow. This is as simple as thinking about the herbs and vegetables you like to eat and use often.

If you want to be pulling things to eat out of your garden all year, keep in mind that you’ll need to follow the schedule of when each herb or veggie will need planting, and what can follow in its place.

And if you’ve got limited space, you’ll need to be fairly brutal about sticking to those schedules. This can mean pulling out a crop when it hasn’t quite finished to make room for the next crop.

Other elements that will help you succeed are choosing fast-growing veggie varieties, and staggering your planting so that your crops overlap.

Spring gardening in Australia

The main options for places to plant are in garden beds, raised freestanding beds or pots. And if you’re new at this, start small with a few pots or a single raised bed. It’s better to learn a little before making a huge investment of money and time.

If you’re digging directly into the soil, raise the soil level in the bed by adding compost and manure. This will not only help provide nutrients, it will also improve drainage. You can either mound it up in the bed, or build a frame of timber sleepers and fill that up.

Compost vs manure

It’s worth noting here the difference between compost and manure.

While both are termed “organic matter”, compost is generally decomposed plant-based material (made from your garden and kitchen waste) and is great for “conditioning” soil: it makes clay soil less dense so it drains better, and adds body to sandy soil, allowing it to retain more nutrients and water. It also stimulates soil microbes into action.

While it contains nutrients, the levels are usually far less intense than in manure.

Manure is generally decomposed animal waste; it might contain a mix of faeces, urine, spilt food and bedding (for example, hay from horse stables). It is a great source of nutrients for plants, being very high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

Of course, the exact levels vary depending on the animal it comes from and other additives.

Some shop-bought manure is bulked out with a lot of vegetable matter, but also, some people add manure to their compost. Just don’t add cat and dog poo, as these can contain parasites that won’t break down as easily. Dog and cat poo can be buried and will break down, but you don’t want it anywhere near your veggie bed.

The veggies versus meat distinction extends to liquid garden products. Seaweed-based solutions are great soil conditioners but not strictly fertilizers, whereas fish-based ones are very high in nutrients and are potent fertilizers.

Drainage and nutrients

If you’re using a free-standing raised bed or containers, then your drainage is already sorted.

Just remember that nutrients will leach out over time and will need to be replaced. Topping up with compost as you replant is a great way to keep soil levels high and nutrients restocked in any garden type.

Adding manure is a good idea when planting “hungry” plants such as brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbages, kale and their cousins), but don’t just spread it everywhere — many root crops (onions and carrots especially) prefer less-fertile soil. There’s no getting around it, you’ll need to do some research. Sorry.

If you only have room for pots on a balcony, then buy two or three of the biggest pots you can manage (about 60 centimetres across the top is ideal — you might want to consider wheels underneath to make them mobile).

Fill them with the best potting mix you can afford (never garden soil, which will compact and won’t drain well), then put them in the sunniest but most wind-sheltered spot you have.

How do I start planting?

It can be hard to decide what to plant or keep track of what has been growing where but it’s important because the same plants shouldn’t go in the same spot year after year. Get a notebook to jot down what you plant. It will also help you build up a picture of what does well where and when.

  • Planting seedlings (instead of seeds) of slow-growing plants such as broccoli gives you a head start, but root crops , peas and beans are always better grown from seed; they just don’t like being moved.
  • Another trick to maximise space is to squeeze a faster-growing crop around a slower-growing one. For example, a tomato plant will eventually need a square metre of soil and can grow 1.5-2 metres tall — but not overnight. Speedy little lettuce, Asian greens and radishes can be planted, grow, and be harvested before the tomato even knows what’s happening.
  • With the point above in mind, don’t be tempted to cram larger plants in too close or the whole row will struggle. Follow the spacing suggested on the pack you bought them in.
  • Plant taller crops on the southern or western side of the patch, graded down in height to the smallest ones at the front, so everything gets a share of sun.
  • If you have space (and time), allow one or two plants to go to seed — the flowers attract the pollinators for other crops and will provide you with seed for next season.
Generally,

Add more compost when replanting, and add manure before planting heavy croppers, such as corn, brassicas (cauliflower, kale, broccoli, etc.), melons, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.

Regular watering is essential (don’t flood them, just make sure your watering is consistent). As they start to produce crops, it helps to add a serve of liquid fertilizer a couple of times a month.

All vegies need to be kept well-watered and will benefit from liquid feeding every seven to 10 days as they grow. For best results and to give your plants a good start in life, remember that almost all vegetables need full sun, which is about eight hours of direct sunlight per day; otherwise, plants won’t produce well. On very hot days many vegies need shade to reduce heat and water stress. This can be given with a screen, tall plantings on the western side of the bed, or a piece of shadecloth to toss over for temporary shade on a hot day. Water vegies at least once a day (more frequently during heatwaves) and spend time checking for pests that may be wanting to eat your vegies before you can. Keep the area free of weeds, too.

Tip: 

Nurture new plantings. They may need shelter from too much hot sunshine until they establish their root system. Snails and slugs can eat seedlings in a single night, so also use a pet- and wildlife-friendly. Iron-based snail bait to protect new plants.

Finally, when your plants do start producing make sure you harvest regularly. Your plants are on a mission to reproduce and, as you keep stealing their babies, they’ll be triggered into producing more. This especially applies to cucumbers, zucchini and peas.

Pest Check

Make sure your new crop of vegies isn’t destroyed by pests. Regular checks should be made as your seedlings establish, but considering your vegies are plants that are to be later consumed, you will want to be careful when selecting an insecticide to make sure that it is non-toxic. There are many insecticides available with all-natural ingredients.

FAQs

1. What grows in spring in Australia?

Because Australia’s climate ranges from the tropical heat of the north to the bitter chill of the south, different plants will grow well in different places. 

2. What veggies should i grow at home?

As well as simply thinking about what you like eating, here are some other points to consider:

  • Pick veggies that are expensive or hard to find in the shops. 
  • What conditions you’re working with. 
  • How much space you have. 
  • “Cut-and-come again” varieties are useful. 
  • Include some insect-friendly flowers and herbs. 
3.      When should I start growing veggies?

Crop choices will vary depending on climate. Unless your garden is under snow or you’re in the grips of a drought, Australia’s weather is generally mild enough to plant something at any time of the year.

4.      How do I start planting?

Planting your spring fruits and veggies is a relatively simple process. You can either use a standard garden bed or, if you’re a little more stuck for space, you can instead use a container arrangement. No matter where you plant your fruits and veggies, the soil should be well aerated, moist, and high in organic matter (i.e. fertile). If you’re planting from seed, the seed packet will instruct on how deep to sow. This will usually be somewhere between a direct sow – left on top of the soil – and a couple of centimetres deep. For seedlings (which, although more expensive than seeds, can prove to be easier to grow for beginner gardeners), it’s simply a matter of digging a hole, loosening the soil around the roots, planting, and watering in.

 

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