Every season has its own bountiful selection of produce to grow, but if you’re not quite sure what to plant and when to plant them, don’t worry. Here are some of my tips of what to plant in the autumn months. Just go down to your local garden centre and take a look around the seedling department. Everything that’s in season will be waiting for you to take home and plant out.
As the days go by, the life giving light of the sun is winding down to the short days of winter, so now is the time to think of winter crops while nurturing the coming crescendo of vegetables that were planted in the summer.
Vegetables that are ideal for autumn:
If you haven’t planted some vegetables by now, don’t worry, there is still plenty of time to do so. Plant some frost resistant brassicas like cabbages, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and tasty kale, to have them ready to enjoy around the winter dinner table. Other vegetables that are well suited for this time is spinach, silverbeet, spring onions and lettuce. Potatoes will be forming fast, so hill up around the plants to prevent the new tubers being exposed to light.
Before you plant, prepare the garden bed with some additional lime. Apply approximately one handful to every square metre and dig it well into the ground.
If you plan on planting some garlic in winter, make sure you dig some manure into the garden now to give the soil enough time to settle. You’ll need to dig in some garden lime for your garlic as well or you can water in some Eco-Flo Lime instead. This will help to make the soil less acidic and bring the pH closer to neutral. If your soil is too acidic, you won’t be making garlic sauce in summer! Remember that garlic is traditionally planted on the shortest day of the year and harvested on the longest.
Perfect trees for the season:
Think about planting some more fruit trees this autumn – they are much cheaper now when they are bare rooted. A tip: choose a tree with the most fibrous root system so that it will establish more easily. If they are being kept in a sawdust/coir peat bed, select from those at the back of the bed. These will be the trees that have not been repeatedly pulled out and put in again – a sore trial for any root system!
Your existing fruit trees will more than likely be showing signs of going to sleep now. This is known as dormancy. During this time their leaves change from the vibrant green colours to the beautiful autumn tones. Hmmm… How peacefully beautiful! Take the time to admire them through this cycle, but while you’re out there, pay attention to their structure. Soon it will be time to prune back old or damaged wood and thin out the weaker branches so you can create the perfect structure for the new season’s growth.
If you can keep your tree small and make every branch productive you will have plenty of fruit. If more than five fruit have set in a bunch, remove at least half of the fruit from the bunch. This will result in larger, better-quality fruit. It also helps those varieties of citrus that are prone to biennial bearing (huge fruit setting one year and nothing the next.) Ensure you give your trees a good feed with compost or manure at this time of the year in preparation for a bumper crop.
Autumn is in the air and so are the leaves from our deciduous trees, giving your garden below that extra sunlight it needs during the cooler months. Take advantage of that extra light and inspect your trees for branches that are damaged or have grown out of control. These will need to be pruned before winter starts in preparation for their spring growth.
Down to earth:
Keep your compost covered and warm this autumn. Make your own compost all year round - whether you purchase a plastic drum, build your own timber frame or just dig a hole in the ground, compost making should be in full swing in everyone’s garden. Organic homemade compost is an essential element for a healthy garden.
If you have a compost bin, don’t forget to keep it aerated. Use a metal rod with a hook on the end to stab the middle of the bin’s contents and draw the base layers to the surface. Soggy compost stinks and turns putrid rather than forming sweet smelling compost. Cover your heap with a tarpaulin or some waterproof covering if it is really wet.
Cool weather over the autumn will be slowing down the composting process in your garden. Just remember that compost heaps and bins need to reach a temperature somewhere between 50°C to 60°C to keep the decomposing process active. Dig in more greens such as grass clippings to provide the extra nitrogen required to keep the heat up during the colder days and to help activate it again. Cover the compost with soil or a lid if it doesn’t have one to keep the heat in.
Now’s as good a time as ever to give your soil that hard-earned rest it deserves before getting stuck into planting it out again. It’s not so much the soil that tires but more so the micro-bacteria and all the good insects that have been working overtime. Replenishing the soil is a vital part to the success of a spring garden, but first things first, let the soil rest for a couple of weeks before you start working it over again.
If heavy rains are predicted, get outside and draw back any mulch that’s in direct contact with your plants’ trunk or central stems to about 200 mm away from your plants. Excess moisture combined with too thick a layer of mulch can cause collar rot to occur. This is die back and rotting of the bark around the stem or trunk of the tree. If this happens your plant is in serious trouble.
Pests and insects to be aware of:
With so many insecticides and fungicides available, it can be hard to resist… or can it? Don’t compromise your health. Proper planning of the garden with a bit of pruning here and there will have these nasty insects easily under control. Pruning allows for proper airflow and will prevent pests from breeding in the well-sheltered areas of dense foliage.
Woolly Apple Aphid
Woolly apple aphid will be out in full force this time of the year. Living off the sap from the tree, at a glance they can easily be mistaken for cotton wool that’s stuck onto the branch. It’s an aggressive insect that congregates around cut branches, near wounds or branch nodes and can easily cause a tree or branch to dry out if left untreated.
The mature insects are capable of flying and do so when in search of their next victim (tree, that is) to lay more eggs and repeat another cycle of damaging effects. Treat it using Eco-Oil or similar and repeat spraying in 14 days if the insect is still active.
Citrus leafminer is another nasty insect that seems to appear literally overnight on citrus trees. Leafminers are the larvae of a very small grey moth which lays its eggs on the new growth of the citrus tree. Once the larvae hatch, they burrow into the leaf and begin tunnelling, leaving behind a silvery trail that looks very similar to that of a snail trail which causes the leaf to distort and curl. Once the larvae pupate into a moth, they emerge from the leaf to fly away and lay eggs on more new growth. This little, yet very damaging, insect can have up to 15 cycles in the one season if left untreated.
Once the leafminer enters the leaf it is very difficult to control so the best approach is to prune off all damaged leaves and burn them. Begin a preventative spraying regime using Eco-Oil or with my homemade garlic and chilli spray to protect the remaining tree. To ensure that you have full control of your tree’s good health, continue to spray it every fortnight from late summer to early autumn.
Cabbage white moth
Watch out for the white cabbage moth by checking under the leaves and rub off any eggs to avoid the population growing out of control. The larvae are small, bright green caterpillars which, if left unchecked, will chew holes in the leaves of your vegetables, especially brassicas like broccoli, cabbage or kale. Check underneath the leaves for these caterpillars during the day. The best way to find them more easily, though, is to have a look early in the morning when they aren’t sheltering from the warmer sun and can be spotted easily on top of the leaves as well.
Prevention is always more effective than controlling the problem. Drape mosquito netting over plants to prevent further attack. You can also companion plant with garlic or aromatic herbs like rosemary or sage to disguise the smell of your brassicas from the moth’s senses so that it doesn’t lay eggs in your winter crops. Spraying regularly with my garlic and chilli spray will also help to deter the adult moths and their larvae.
Vasili is a television personality and host of his own TV program Vasili’s Garden, which is broadcasted on 7Two. Through his program he gives everyday Australians some helpful gardening tips and techniques to teach them how to improve their health and wellbeing by using their own garden produce. Visit his website here, for more tips & tricks for your perfect garden.