Cooler autumn days are the pick of veggie and herb planting conditions, writes Julie Thomson.

Aaah Autumn: some of the best months for gardening in Brisbane. The heat and humidity have lifted, the gobbling insects are scarcer and cooler conditions encourage us into planting edibles that won’t end in scorched and nibbled shards. And the ground’s still warm enough for fairly fast growth.

It’s the perfect time to put in winter veggies and herb crops since working outdoors is a pleasure. If your soil is rubbish and you hate digging, you can make your own soil for growing in pots.

If you’re a garden novice, then grab a few pots, fill them with mix and put in some established seedlings. Zoom seedlings are available at most garden centres. If the heat, cold, light, wind, etc., is a problem, no sweat, shift them.

Vegetables that grow in pots

There’s a stack of veggies that grow successfully in containers such as: salad greens (lettuce, rocket, mizuna), Asian greens (pak choy, bok choy, tatsoi), spinach, roots (radish, beetroot, turnip), kale, bush bean, tomato, capsicum and potato.

Small plants like lettuce need a pot at least 20-25 cm deep and about 30cm wide, while the more robust tomato and eggplant demand pots 30-40cm deep and 40-50cm wide. Try the compact varieties that don’t fill the pots so quickly.

Veggies like sunshine, but pick a place protected because pots dry out quickly. Even if sunlight is limited, as on a balcony, you can grow most leafy veggies with as little as three hours direct sun a day. Fruiting plants need at least 5 to 6 hours.

Potting mix

Start with a quality potting mix and add organic goodies like garden compost, blood and bone, a good pinch of trace element mix (i.e. manganese, magnesium, sulphur, iron, boron, copper and zinc. Try a bag of Essential Minor Elements from your garden centre). Mix it all together – and treat them to some liquid fertiliser every fortnight.

Herbs

Growing herbs in Queensland can be a trying experience – there are a few that won’t play nicely with me, like sage. But it’s worth putting in others along with your veggies this month and they can grow together as happy companions.

There’s no comparison between eating your own fresh herbs and what you buy at the supermarket. Stick with the basic culinary parsley, coriander and basil (your coriander should behave now and not bolt away as in summer) or if you’re feeling adventurous, go for underused herbs such as winter tarragon, Vietnamese mint, lemon balm or native peppermint which can lift the simplest of dishes.

Grouping herbs together 

Group hug time! Group them according to their watering needs, for example, basil, coriander and parsley should be kept together as they like to be fertilised more often. Herbs prefer a large pot for more growing space, but those with shallow roots like thyme and oregano do well in strawberry pots.

Good reading guide

A good go-to manual on growing herbs is released by the Queensland Herb Society called 101 Herbs to Grow in South-East Queensland. Definitely worth checking out.