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6 Kick Ass Veggies for your Fall Container Garden

6 Kick Ass Veggies for your Fall Container Garden

As a container gardener, when fall rolls round I tend to feel much less inspired by planting than I do when the heady days spring arrive. It’s colder, wetter and there’s less sunlight to nurture growth – I hate that niggling fear that I won’t be able to get my veggies through to harvest before the elements kills them off.

This year though I’m feeling pretty pumped. In part it’s because last year’s crop really came into it’s own – I finally nailed what worked and what didn’t in my little space. But it’s also because I was brave enough to get experimental and I learnt that the range of vegetables that will thrive in a container during the cooler months is much more varied and exciting than I’d anticipated.

Here are my top 6 picks for fall container gardening, based on ease of growing and return on investment.

Kale

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Kale loves cool temps, and will withstand cold winters if given some protection from the elements. My love affair with kale started in the fall and has been growing into a rich relationship ever since. I will say though, I was initially reluctant to embrace the hype when kale stormed the superfood world a few years back, but the thing is I don’t actually care for it’s exceptional nutritional value, I grow it because it’s easy (and there’s a lot to be said for making myself feel like a true green thumb) and with all its luscious greenery it looks spectacular in the patch. Whipping up green smoothies and bragging about it to all your hipster friends on instagram is just an added bonus.

Growing tips

Sow seeds directly into containers (2cm deep). Thin to 20cm when the seedlings reach a 10cm in height (you will need a container that’s at least 20cm in diameter). If your containers only allow space for one or two kale plants but you still have a little extra to play with, team your kale with beets, spinach, dill, rosemary, sage or mint, which all make great kale companions.

Harvesting tips

Harvest the older, larger leaves that are closest to the bottom of the stalk (harvesting newer leaves from the top of the plant will stunt growth). New growth will continue to sprout as the plant grows.

Worms of Wisdom

Frost makes for a sweeter flavoured kale.

Rainbow Chard

Chard has been a constant in my winter patch forever. Like kale, it’s hardy, will withstand colder conditions and is easy to grow. Any chard variety works well in a winter container patch, but there’s nothing like adding a splash of colour to an otherwise overly green gardenscape, which is why I’ve recommended the rainbow variety.

Growing Tips

Sow seeds direct into containers (2cm deep) and thin to 20cm once the seedlings have reached a few centimetres in height (so again, a pot with at least a 20cm diameter is best). Like kale, if your containers only allow space for one or two plants but you still have a little extra space, team it with some worthy companions. Beans, cabbage, radish and lettuce all make great companions to chard.

Harvesting Tips

Either take the leaves one by one as they grow or cut the whole plant flush with the ground – either way will encourage a fresh crop to sprout back up.

Worms of Wisdom

Chard, it turns out, is more super in the superfood stakes than kale is, ranking third after watercress and Chinese cabbage according to this 2014 study.

Beets

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Winter for me is all about the beets. You just can’t beet beautifully roasted beets on a cold night to warm the heart (and the stomach). They are just glorious.

Growing Tips

Sow seeds directly into containers (2cm deep) and thin to 15cm.

Harvesting Tips

Harvest outer leaves for salads from around 6 weeks (but leave at least 5 on the plant to allow it to continue to grow).

Beets are sweetest when they are 3-5cm wide, but will retain a good flavor to the size of a tennis ball. They take at least 12 weeks to reach harvest.

Worms of Wisdom

Beet greens are the most nutritious part of the plant.

Rocket

Rocket is a great addition to many dishes, and its harvest time is so short that this veggie is hard to go past for winter growing. It doesn’t rely on full sun, so it will grow in shadier areas of your space. If you are looking for a confidence boost on the gardening front this winter, rocket is your man.

Growing Tips

Sow seeds directly into containers, spacing to 10cm. Plant every few weeks for a continuous supply.

Harvesting Tips

Plants will be ready to harvest within 6 weeks. Just like chard, you can either take the leaves one by one as they grow or cut the whole plant flush with the ground and wait for new growth to spring up.

Harvest rocket young for the sweetest flavor. The older rocket gets, the more peppery in flavor it will become.

Worms of Wisdom

Rocket flowers are edible.

 

Green Beans

This classic is not only an awesome veggie, but it adds some much needed height to a container garden. Throw in a stake or two (or build a teepee of stakes for that matter), and up they grow. Because they take up little space, I recommend adding them as a companion to another container to maximize space.

Growing Tips

Sow seeds directly into containers (2cm deep). Beans make a great companion to cauliflower, spinach, cabbage, peas and parsley in winter.

Harvesting Tips

Beans are ready to harvest when they are firm and crisp – you should be able to snap them in half (which incidentally gives them their nickname ‘snap bean’). If beans start showing signs of bulging, they are likely overripe.

Worms of Wisdom

Green beans have been cultivated in Mexico for 7,000 years.

Cauliflower

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I’ve recently discovered the joy of the whole-roasted cauliflower. Lather with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, throw it in the oven and it’s seriously glorious. I can’t wait to roast my own homegrown caulies this winter.

It’s worth noting that cauliflower grows into a large plant so it can be cumbersome if you are really tight on space. But what it lacks on that front, it makes up for in beauty.

Growing Tips

Plant seeds in punnets and transfer to containers once they reach a few inches in height. Cauliflower needs more room than other crops on this list – make sure they have at least 40 centimetres spacing. They like full sun, so choose a spot with at least 6 hours sunlight.

Harvesting Tips

Cauliflower will take time to reach maturity, so be patient. When the head (curd) has formed to about 6 centimetres, blanch the cauliflower by tying some of its leaves around the head with some twine – this protects the plant and keeps it bright white. Heads are ready to harvest when they are around 15cm in diameter. Cut the head off, including some of the leaves, with a knife. Once you have removed the main head, the plant will continue to produce smaller florets.

Worms of Wisdom

‘Cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education’ – Mark Twain.

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