Gardening – Ready for a cool change

Not everyone enjoys autumn, particularly the damp squib that we have in Auckland compared with the fireworks provided by deciduous trees in colder parts.

For many Coasties, autumn is just the bad news that summer really is over. For gardeners, it’s the planting season when plans get put into action and changes can be made to the structure and look of the plot, however large or small it may be. It’s the ideal time to sow new lawns and plant, or re-locate, trees and shrubs.

Before I do any of that, though, the soil needs attention. The dry summer took its toll and you can sense that the soil’s reserves are exhausted. Compost is needed, by the wheelbarrow load and can be left on top as mulch if the soil is still too dry and hard to dig properly. I might even throw in a few bags of sheep pellets – fertiliser is not really needed, but those pellets release their nutrients slowly as they break down in the soil, and are excellent for improving the condition of my clay. I’m a big fan of sheep pellets, which are Kiwi recycling at its best, made of sheep manure and waste wool. They need to be dug in to around a spade’s depth.

One thing that can be fertilised now is citrus trees. There are various brands of fertiliser labelled ‘Citrus Food’, all of which will have high levels of nitrogen, potassium and magnesium. If you have some left over, you can use ‘Citrus Food’ for any other flowering and fruiting plants – nitrogen assists leaf growth and potassium supports fruiting and flowering. They put magnesium in citrus fertiliser because citrus are susceptible to magnesium deficiency, which is indicated by poor growth and yellow leaves with only the veins remaining green.

Autumn is also a good time to have a tidy up. Here there’s a balance between grooming a garden and going for the wild, natural look. Seed heads can be removed but unless they’re a plant that I already have more than enough of, I tend to let them be. Birds feed on the seeds and self-seeding can lead to surprisingly good plant combinations. You can also save the seeds, or share them with others. At the same time, I must confess, I don’t have a lot of seed heads as I’m quite particular about removing spent flowers. Deadheading is not only therapeutic, but leads to more flowers, which leads to more deadheading.

There are also areas in need of fresh planting, so I’m expecting an action packed autumn. Thank goodness for the cooler weather, softer soil and inspiration all around in nature and in other people’s gardens. Have an awesome autumn.