After a gentle Melbourne summer that passed in the blink of an eye, autumn is upon us and with it a list of garden chores to get stuck into! I thought I’d give you some pearls of wisdom to make the most of this changing time in the garden.
Autumn leaf drop is a beautiful but much maligned time in the garden. Don’t be annoyed by it. Embrace it, observe it, enjoy it. Autumn is the changing of the guard, the passing of the seasons, the brightness that precedes decay. A bit like middle age – but to be celebrated, not mourned.
Make some compost. Autumn leaves give you so much needed crunch in an often-wet mix of ingredients. If you’ve loaded the compost bin up with grass clippings and vegie scraps over the summer, it’s probably a bit slimy and smelly in there. You need to dry it out to get some air in amongst the slop. A ratio of three parts leaves to 1 part lawn/veg is about right. Mix it up together and add a bag of manure if you want to turn it into some beautiful black gold.
Kill the bugs. Cooler days and a bit more moisture mean that some of those annoying garden pests will be back to chew on your garden. Look out for Two Spotted Mite, Aphids and Scale. It’s also a bad time for Mealybugs indoors and out. Depending on your politics, there are a few different sprays to use. Have a look on the packets and see what you’re most comfortable with. Eco-oil (by OCP) is probably the most gentle and also provides a nice lustre to the leaves. Mavrik (by Yates) is a low toxic contact spray and Confidor (also by Yates) is the “All guns blazing” systemic chemical option. If you’re doing your vegies – go with the Eco Oil, as it doesn’t have a withholding period after spraying.
Citrus are back after a summer without many lemons, the fruit are starting to ripen on the trees. It’s been a bad season for Citrus Leaf miner this year, so cut away the affected tips and give them a spray. The affected leaves will not repair, so a heavy prune may be in order. It’s a good time for a citrus feed too while the fruit ripens.
Give your orchids a bit more sun to encourage the flowers spikes to form. They like summer in the shade and winter in the sun so if you haven’t got them under a deciduous canopy, move them out for a bit of Vitamin D. Keep feeding them up with Peters Excel high-k fertilizer – Available from the lovely Wayne at the Australian Orchid Nursery
Reset and check your irrigation after it’s heaviest use period, you’ll need to pull back the amount of water that you’re giving the garden. From two-three times a week in summer, a single good soak through autumn should do the trick. Keep an eye on the rainfall though, because we can still have some hot weeks though March that may need a little extra watering.
Give the lawn some lovin. Autumn is the perfect time to top dress, feed and aerate your lawn. Lawns generally get a hard work out over summer and are in need of a little repair by the end of the season. Look out for Lawn Army Worm too during autumn – it can present as a denuded patch that looks as though it’s mown too short (even though you know it hasn’t). There are some lawn care products like Grub Guard (by Lawn Lovers) that will get you out of trouble here.
With the exception of February, The best time to feed gardens in poor Australian soils seems to be all the time; it’s just a matter of what type of food in what season. Autumn feeding should be a general organic blend such as Dynamic Lifter or Blood & Bone. An extra mulch of Surecrop with a little manure mixed into it will really help autumn growth along. The last flush of flowers from perennial borders could use a little boost now too. Kabloom (from Neutrog) is a high Potassium fertilizer that will get the most out of your autumn borders.
Plan for the future with some Spring Bulbs. It’s no good getting to spring and envying you neighbors Hyacinths. Plan for them now while the bulbs are dormant and plant them in big sweeps throughout the garden. Tesselaar are a great online source that will post your bulbs to your front door. All you have to do is chose them and get them in the ground.
Clear the decks on the summer vegie patch and start working on your winter crop. It’s harvest time for a lot of the veggies and herbs and autumn is the time to start planning for the winter crop. Think Brassicas, Beetroot, Broad Beans. Replace the summer greens with some winter growers like spinach and rocket. Herb wise, Parsley and Coriander are the staples.
Hoard your food. If you can’t share your abundance of harvest produce, then get productive with it. Too much Basil is easily converted into Pesto and too many tomatoes can easily become jars of rich, tasty Passata for the lean winter months. I’ve got a whole lot of Cascade Hops this season so it looks like there might be an attempt at home brewing unless anyone would like some?