25 March 2020

What vegetables to plant now?

Amidst all the uncertainty and mayhem, how wonderful to observe so many people starting or revamping a veggie garden. But trying to plant pumpkins now in Victoria? That is not going to end well; maybe not even get started…

So this post, based on living and gardening in a cool climate for 4 decades, what to plant? What will grow? And good luck finding seeds and seedlings..., but first,

    Thought for the day

         Ask yourself : Where am I?
         Answer : Here.

         Ask yourself : What time is it?

         Answer : Now.

         Say it until you can hear it.

                              Ram Dass

For decades I have experimented with growing vegetables in a cool climate – the Yarra Valley to be precise. We have cold winters, light snow every few years and where we are, only mild and occasional frosts. If you are in a warmer area, you can be more adventurous. Heavy frosts will limit things; the tropics are completely different.


What I am sharing is my own experience.

Gardening is very variable and what is offered is simply
that, the sharing of my own experience.

There are many planting guides available that cover the country; the Digger’s Club being one of the best.

However, in my experience, a lot more grows in our area than the guides predict and maybe we need more sharing of local knowledge.

Experience leads to encouraging experimentation, but if you are new to all this and you have limited space, it may be time to prioritise.


Given it is late March, best be quick. In recent years, I have found a big planting around now usually works well as the ground and weather still has some warmth, seedlings and seeds establish quickly and put on some growth before the really cold weather hits, and we are able to harvest good food crops in winter and/or early spring. This said, the quality is generally not quite as good as what we are harvesting now.

If you plant in another month, everything will move much more slowly, however, I usually give that a go too, especially with the brassicas, and get reasonable results – especially for what grows through into spring.

If space is limited, consider the high yield, small space crops like carrots, beetroot, leeks and greens – lettuce, silver beat, spinach, kale etc. Broccoli that continues to sprout after the main head is harvested is another great crop worth making space for.


This is the key to good results.

If you need to start from scratch, consider the no-dig method as outlined in the recent post.

If your garden is in pretty good shape already and you like digging, add as much compost as possible (it is worth buying in bags if you do not have your own ready to go), some good quality natural fertilizer and a sprinkle of either dolomite or lime.

Ideally leave the soil to sit for a week or 2 at least if you have dug it over, but at this time of year, best to push on immediately.

Good to soak seedlings in a liquid fertiliser with a seaweed basis for around 30 mins before planting. I do not add more fertiliser after planting; either directly on the ground or as a spray, although many do. But our soil is pretty good these days…

Baby carrot seeds. Planted a week ago, my latest crop is up already and with luck they will be good to start picking in around 10 weeks (maybe some earlier). For a family of 4, plant a row of around 1 metre.

Manchester Table carrot seeds. These also are up, however, they take longer to mature. So we may get them during the winter, but I find they hang on pretty well over winter, and while often a bit scruffy, are OK early spring. For a family of 4, plant around 1 metre.

Beetroot seeds. I plant the cylindra variety as they do not bolt to seed, handle the colder weather reasonably well and grow large with great flavour and texture. For a family of 4, plant around .5 metre.

Leek seedlings. These generally do well if planted soon.

Lettuces. The soft varieties still work well, generally, the iceburg varieties tend to rot out now. Cos is the classic winter lettuce and will hang on through winter when you can simply pick leaves from the plant regularly.

Zucchini seedling. This is the odd one and to do it you need a well-established seedling now. That means you will have needed to grow it yourself (or have planted directly into the soil in January which is what I do). Plant this new one well away from any others. What happens is that as the older ones get mildew and die off in autumn, this new one will be vigorous still and extend you season a few weeks. I prefer Blackjack or Black Beauty varieties; harvest in around 2 months +. Best to try only if you have a big garden and can stand being disappointed; but generaly it works, especially with the earlier planting.

Brassicas – broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower seedlings. These are all likely to do well now. If you can get them, plant mini and full-size caulis and cabbage seedlings as the minis mature about a month earlier than the full-size ones. Be warned, full sized caulis and cabbages do take up a fair bit of space. It is too late for Brussel Sprouts now; they need to grow in the warmer months and mature in the cold.

Bean seeds. You may get lucky… Try some bush variety or maybe better a climber like Blue Lake.

Harvest is around 10 – 12 weeks but a frost will end things quickly. On the other hand, Broad Beans planted now will be early and do fine. Best to plant more in another month or 2 as well.

Artichoke seedlings. These are terrific but do take a large space – think 1 square metre. Harvest begins in around 3 months

Many things will not develop as the autumn deepens and winter approaches. It is a long list, including tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, potatoes (although I have some self-seeded ones that come up each year and I tend to leave some and they do OK – we do get some late ones), pumpkins, all the melons, many herbs, corn, cucumber and so on.

If you have a glasshouse, start early Spring, however, my experience in this area confirms it really is a waste of time planting main spring crops in the garden before early November.

Things like potatoes can go in a couple of weeks before the risk of frost is over, and onions need planting late autumn.

HAVE FUN, get outdoors, get dirty and enjoy the bounty…

QUESTIONS WELCOME via the Comments section below…

Also, let me know if anything has been forgotten; and share your own experiences…

How to build a veggie garden quickly - or revamp one

What is behind the corona virus panic – and what to do


  1. It feels to me to be such a wonderful, healing grounding thing to do with kids at home too. Engaging with nature for a couple of hours each day (at least) really helps me feel optimistic and bright, where looking at news on the internet is very disheartening... And yes, the thought for the day is very helpful...I'll set a reminder every hour to do it today!

  2. Exactly :) Giving children a connection to the earth and to the cycles of nature and to how things grow is one of the greatest gifts we can offer as parents. And to be in the garden amidst nature is so grounding in these confusing and troubled times. Enjoy !

  3. Thank you Ian for sharing your experience and knowledge! We've been growing veggies in a raised veggie patch but we are going to build our first no-dig garden tomorrow :) Shiho & Daniel x