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Autumn Gardening Prep

April 01, 2021

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Autumn gardening 

 

Autumn has arrived and with it crisp, clear days. In the garden, harvest is in full swing. As is tidying up the garden, yard, or balcony before winter hits. Gardening at home is a great gentle exercise, it’s also good for growing your own food and helps the planet when done sustainably. We all know that now is the time to compost your garden beds and pots, but had you considered planting a winter vegetable garden?

 

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What to plant in autumn

 

Don’t delay and start planting for the winter months ahead. Cool-loving vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, onions, radish, silverbeet, spinach, swedes and turnip are all ready to flourish in a winter garden.

New potted colour flowers and bulbs can be planted now too. Varieties like forget-me-nots, sweet peas, calendulas, and poppies will go for gold or lie in wait until they’re ready to bloom. When it comes to winter flowers, violas, pansies, and polyanthus are more resilient to winter weather. Be sure to protect all your plants, even the winter-lovers, with a cosy layer of mulch. It’s great for moisture retention, warmth, biodiversity in the soil, and it saves you from having to weed in the cold. Gather autumn leaves to bulk up your mulch – the local park has plenty available for free!

As you harvest and prepare for next season, remember to harvest seeds as well. Saving seeds from your best growers from the past season increases the likelihood of you having a strong growth year the next. Many commercial seed varieties are sterile, so opt for organic seed and heirloom varieties that are designed to reseed. See below for more seed-saving tips. Autumn is also the perfect time to plant bulbs like daffodils and dahlias to add lovely colours to your garden. If you don’t want your bulbs to spread, dig them up after flowering and store them until… now, when it’s time to plant.

 

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How to prepare the garden for winter


Get busy cleaning out dead annuals and weeds leftover from summer before preparing your soil for the next growing season. Tidying lawns, hedges, foliage, and pruning back perennials will save you from doing much work during winter. It’s also lovely to gaze out at a tidy yard or balcony. Pruning has the bonus of encouraging new growth and strong flowering come spring. Adding compost to your soil replaces nutrients and all you need is some household green waste and garden cuttings. Fallen autumn leaves are another great addition to compost and an easy way to recycle nutrients. See our tips below for starting your own compost heap!

A fertiliser is vital for healthy plants. Avoid using chemical fertilisers and opt for organic fertilisers. Organic alternatives are more beneficial for the long-term health of your soil and plants – which is the point of fertilizer in the first place! A great source of natural fertiliser is ‘worm tea’ from a worm farm, which you can build yourself. Building a worm farm is an excellent way to produce fertiliser and reduce waste from the kitchen. Check out our tips below and get started on your worm farm.

If you have any delicate plants or fruit trees that require a helping hand through frosty cold snaps, now is the time to set up their shelters. Perhaps they’re in pots and need to be dragged undercover, or perhaps they require frost cloth to be set up for winter.

 

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Biodiversity in the garden

 

Planting an assortment of plant types and varieties is a great gardening approach. Planting a diverse range of plants in your garden has many benefits for yourself, insects, birds, and the planet. You can enjoy a wide variety of foods and attractive flowers while improving your little part of the ecosystem. Critically, diverse planting creates biodiverse habitats that benefit birds, bees, and other plants.

 

Natives are great for biodiversity. Native plants attract native species of birds and insects and work for, not against, their local ecosystem. At home, natives reduce the amount of attention, maintenance, and water your garden requires. They’re the ultimate low maintenance garden plants. Read below on our tips to conserve water in the garden.

 

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Create your own compost

 

Composting magically turns kitchen waste into an ongoing supply of organic fertiliser for your garden. Ok, there’s no magic, just basic chemistry. You can build a compost bin with old bricks, a wine barrel, a wooden box, or using a specialized compost bin. Start with a layer of leaves and twigs then add materials rich in carbon and others rich in nitrogen. Carbon-rich materials include cardboard, dried leaves, twigs and newspaper. Nitrogen-rich materials are generally food waste, grass clippings, or other greens. It’s important to have a mixture of both and to keep your compost moist. After a few months, your compost will have broken down and darkened in colour, ready to be used in your garden and planters.

 

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Make a worm farm at home

 

Start your worm farm by purchasing a dedicated worm farm or make your own using stacked containers or old tyres. A tray at the bottom will catch ‘worm juice’ which is your liquid fertilizer. When filling your farm, the first layer should be damp bedding like hay, paper, or compost. Then add your new worm friends! Worm farm worms can be purchased from hardware stores or online. Next, add another layer of compost or soil before adding food scraps. Continue layering as you create more food waste. Cover the top layer with damp newspaper to protect the worms from light. Your worm farm will eventually produce worm juicein the bottom tray which can then be diluted and used as a natural fertiliser in your garden. Research the variety of worms you purchase for your farm to ensure that any food waste you add is safe for them to eat.

 

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Saving seeds

 

Autumn is one of the best times to save seeds. The key is to avoid deadheading and instead let your plants dry up and leave your vegetables to bolt. Seeds from vegetable plants and flowers can be collected and stored for planting next growing season. Make sure to save seeds from your best plants and remove as much plant and seed pod material before drying the seeds completely. Once dry, store the seeds in a cool, dry, dark place. Handy tip: label your seed packets clearly to avoid confusion come planting time! Heirloom varieties are ideally suited to seed collection as they’re designed to reseed. Many modified seeds are designed to grow sterile plants or plants that don’t seed well.

 

Autumn is a great time to get your hands dirty in the garden, plan for future growth, and try new things.