CONTRARY to temperate zone gardening, the most important planting season of the year is beginning in Hong Kong now. The autumn is the critical window of opportunity for establishing strong plants before cool temperatures slow growth to a snail's pace. As far as vegetables go, you can get an idea of what to plant, from the wet markets. Cabbages dominate the greens being offered - and planted. This means the Chinese bak choy, gaai laan, choy sum, and wong nga baak, and the Western cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. For the small garden and the impatient gardener, leafy crops are the best. They do well in a small pots as long as they get enough light and water. Herbs, too, should be planted now. This means all the culinary and fragrant herbs of the mint family (basil, mint, oregano, thyme, sage) and of the carrot family (parsley, coriander, chervil, fennel, dill, caraway, cumin). For those with a bit more room, several small-scale fruit and root crops are suitable for planting. Radishes and green onions spring to mind. Chillies, tomatoes and melons will often sprout from seeds scraped from inside vegetables used for cooking. In this season, don't bother to dry them, simply put them straight into the ground. The Hong Kong Gardening Society sends out a monthly newsletter detailing what to do with vegetables, herbs, flowers, and lawns. Write to PO Box 231, Sai Kung.