Red Veg to Plant this Autumn

Make your garden a colourful tribute to the season by planting red autumn vegetables. These veggies offer the best of both worlds in your garden and kitchen through their looks and taste. Pair a few together for a red spectacle or dot them around your garden for occasional pops of colour.


If you’re looking for a long-lasting colourful vegetable that will give you almost no problems in the garden, rhubarb is your answer. Since it is not common in the kitchen, rhubarb doesn’t have the best reputation, but it is the ideal plant for veggie garden beginners. The thick, bright red stems are easy to spot in the garden and add a punch of intensity to spring dishes. While technically a vegetable, rhubarb is usually eaten as a fruit in sweet dishes like pies or jams. It can be quite tart and so is generally seen as an acquired taste. However, boiling the stalks before combining them with sugar in your desired dish will reduce this intensity. The leaves contain oxalic acid and should not be ingested. Rhubarb should only be harvested after a year of growth, so it’s best to plant established plants over seeds if you’re impatient. Mulch around the stalks to retain moisture in the soil and feed with a liquid fertiliser during the growing season. When you’re ready to harvest, twist the stalks off the main plant or snip them from the base with sharp scissors. 

Red onions

A kitchen garden is incomplete without onions, and you cannot go wrong planting red ones. These alliums elevate a dish to the next level in both taste and in colour. Red onions are far sweeter than their common yellow counterparts and have a milder onion flavour that is more suitable for garnishing dishes or eating raw. If you have experience in growing onions already, the process is the same. Plant the bulbs around 5cm deep in soil amended with fertiliser and compost at the root level. The soil should also be well-draining to prevent the bulbs from rotting. Once planted, they benefit from consistent watering, which also improves taste. Harvest your onions when the tops begin to turn yellow.

Kathy’s Spinach Tips 

Aesthetic Edibles

Spinach ‘Bright Lights’ is a vibrant variety that performs fantastically in the home garden. Well, I say spinach because that’s how we South Africans refer to it, but it is in fact a Swiss chard. I’m sure you knew that though… A bit crunchier than spinach, and more tender than kale, Swiss chard is a cool-season vegetable that likes to be planted in full sun, but will tolerate light shade. The plants are as pretty as they are tasty, and offer the perfect opportunity to add some bright colour to your winter garden. ‘Bright Lights’ is easy to grow, especially when you plant it in fertile, well-drained soil. Sow your seeds about 1cm deep in a row in the soil, spacing them about 15cm apart. You can also thin them out to this spacing later, if you prefer. You can start harvesting the leaves when the plants are about 25 – 30cm tall; break off the outer leaves at their base, leaving the inner leaves to mature. Plants that are harvested regularly will continue to produce new growth from the centre of the plant. Obviously you can eat ‘Bright Lights’ like spinach, but it is also fantastic when harvested young for salads. Both the leaves and stalks are edible raw, steamed or sautéed. Swiss chard is packed with nutrition: it’s an excellent source of vitamins K, A and C, as well as magnesium, potassium, iron and dietary fibre! Healthy and good looking too! When it comes to growing your own – ‘Bright Lights’ is a sure winner.

Spinach ‘Bright Lights’

There’s so much to love about ‘Bright Lights’. One of the most popular seedlings around, the stalks add bright pops of red, orange and yellow to your garden, contrasted by the deep green foliage. Swiss chard germinates very quickly and is ready to harvest in under two months, making it ideal for impatient gardeners or growth between seasons. ‘Bright Lights’ is packed with essential vitamins and minerals such as iron and vitamins A and C. The leaves are a great base for salads, with colourful veins that match the bright stems. They can also be tossed into stir-fries, but are best used fresh to preserve their stunning colour. Sow ‘Bright Lights’ seeds straight into enriched soil in rows around 20cm apart. Keep the soil moist until the seeds have germinated, usually within a week. Continue to water and retain moisture in the soil until the plants have established. They should be ready to harvest in just over a month. Don’t remove too much of the plant at one time, and fertilise with a liquid fertiliser if you harvest regularly. 

Red cabbage

While they do appear more purple than red in the garden, their common name, as well as the colour they release when mixed into a juicy salad, land red cabbages on this list. These cool-season vegetables are the perfect way to warm up your winter dishes, but their versatility means they can also be chopped up fresh and thrown into a colourful red salad in the warmer months, depending on when you choose to grow them. Cabbage is one of the healthiest vegetables around. Packed with vitamins C and K, the red varieties also have plenty of calcium, magnesium and vitamin A to go around. As long as they are planted in well-draining rich soil amended with organic matter, they are also relatively easy to grow. Mulch regularly and water often, keeping a close eye out for common brassica pests when you do. Cut the entire head off at the stem when you are ready to harvest, tossing the leaves into your favourite salad or soup for a bright and intense colour display.



No list of red veg is complete without beetroot. This edible garden staple has such an intense colour that it will quickly dye your fingers red, along with the clothes you wear when dealing with them in the kitchen. They are also the perfect root-to-stalk vegetable, as all parts of the plant are edible and quite delicious. Beetroot seeds can be planted almost any time of year, bar mid-winter. Ensure the soil is well-draining and fertile, and maintain consistent moisture in the soil to make these crops as juicy and delicious as possible. They should be ready to harvest within three months, and can be used in your favourite dishes from pastas to healthy ice- cream. 

Beetroot ice-cream

Although it may seem strange to combine beetroot with a classic dessert item, their sweetness and earthy flavour is surprisingly delicious when made into ice- cream. 

  • 400g beetroot, chopped
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup honey

Combine the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Churn the mixture in an ice-cream machine or place in the freezer and whisk every 30 minutes until completely frozen. To sweeten the mixture, stir in a swirl of chocolate syrup before freezing.

The Gardener