As I’ve probably mentioned before, autumn is my favourite season, even though it is the harbinger of winter, my least favourite season. With the mostly sunny days and cooler weather I can get a lot more done each day without having a meltdown, fortunately, as there are plenty of tasks to keep me busy.
Autumn is a time of plenty, with many crops ready to harvest, assuming of course that they survived our horrible summer. We have a reasonable harvest of apples and loads of feijoas this year, but our normal abundance of pumpkins, beans, tomatoes, peppers, corn, grapes, figs and more have been pretty dismal. Later this season I’m expecting to lift some pretty good crops of turmeric, galangal, Kra Chai and ginger, as the growth on these tropicals has been better than normal. Likewise, the bananas have done well with still a couple more bunches fattening up and the early mandarins are looking good.
The cooler weather makes autumn a good time to plant new crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, and other leafy greens, as well as herbs like parsley, coriander and chives.
With the soil still relatively warm and moist, now is a good time of year to plant new fruit trees, too. They will establish their root systems over the coming months, ready for a burst of growth in spring.
This is also a good time to prepare your vegetable beds for the next growing season. Any beds that aren’t being used for cropping can have compost, manure or other organic matter added to improve fertility. Mulching the garden beds helps protect the soil from the cooler temperatures and helps improve soil condition also. I use whatever I have at hand, including leaves, straw, woodchips, seagrass, or even cardboard (ideal when putting a bed to sleep) to mulch the beds.
Another worthwhile technique if you’re not planning on planting anything in your garden beds over winter, is to consider planting a cover crop. Cover crops can help prevent erosion, add nutrients to the soil, and improve its structure. Common cover crop options include clover, barley, ryegrass, lupin and oats. These are tilled into the soil a few weeks before planting the new crop, to give time to break down and release their nutrients.
Early autumn is a good time to prune plum trees and berry fruit, with other trees and shrubs following on as we come into winter. As the leaves of deciduous trees start to fall, it’s a good idea to rake them up, compost or burn them or mulch them into your lawn with the mower. This will help reduce diseases and pests for next season. Likewise, mow over or gather up and destroy any fallen fruit that are infested with codling moth or guava moth.
Autumn is the perfect time to plant bulbs for spring flowers such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.
Make sure to choose a location that gets plenty of sun and has well-drained soil sprinkle some bulb fertiliser and put a tag in the ground so you don’t forget where you planted them! I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve mown over or double planted a bulb planting.
Whether you’re harvesting, planting or preparing your soil, autumn is a great time to get outside and enjoy your garden.