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Tatsoi is best grown in autumn.

Fast-growing greens to fill garden gaps

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Autumn is a good time to plant fast-growing green to help fill garden gaps when your summer harvest is over, writes Jian Liu.

As the heady days of summer fade into the cool, crisp nights of autumn, the endless baskets filled with tomatoes, zucchinis and cucumbers begin to empty. At the same time, you might find that your cool season crops are still baby seedlings (or perhaps yet to be sown!), and seemingly overnight, the summer glut has become an autumn famine. 

The good news is you don’t have to go hungry during this transition between seasons. Autumn is a great time to get some speedy and tasty crops in: at this time of year, the weather is not too hot or cold, so ideal for planting. If you’re short on space, you can even get a head start by planting out some of these quick-growing plants between your summer crops. Just as your summer plants start to wind down, your next batch of autumn harvests will be ramping up. If you are in a warm climate, you may need to employ some shadecloth to reduce the heat.

Quick planting

Filling gaps in the patch need not be a slow and arduous affair. When the opportunity presents itself, clear out rows of spent crops: there’s no need to pull up plants, just quickly chop them off at the base and leave the roots in the ground to rot and feed the soil. Remove any weeds – most can be knocked over with a hoe or steel rake, only the more established weeds will need to be dealt with by hand. 

Follow up by spreading organic fertiliser over the area and then cover the surface with a 3–5cm mulch layer of compost. There’s no need to dig it in – let the worms and microbes look after that. Just level it all with a steel rake and plant your seeds or seedlings straight into the compost mulch. 

Keep moist, and if it’s still a little warm where you are, set up a simple frame around your seedlings and cover it with a piece of shade cloth, to protect your babies until the days are cooler.

One of my all-time faves

One favourite is tatsoi: if you love Asian greens you will also love this tasty plant. I think of tatsoi as a ‘baby’ loose leaf version of bok choy. It is best grown in autumn, as it is loved by caterpillars in summer and will also bolt to seed. In the cooler weather, tatsoi will form a pretty rosette with dark-green leaves and white stems. Like all Asian greens, it is a fast grower; plus, you don’t need to wait for it to form a head like bok choy, which means you can start harvesting a few outer leaves in as little as three weeks. The leaves are tender and sweet and add some fun to your salads; while larger leaves can be stir-fried or added to soups.

There’s more more information about fast-growing leafy greens in the Autumn 2024 issue (OG 148), and plenty of other ideas, too. It’s easy to subscribe.

OG 148 cover