Preparing for Your Autumn Garden
March is regarded as the start of autumn. Although, if you are in the north of New Zealand, you may not notice a lot of change in the weather, in the cooler southern regions the cold nights will start to change the colours of trees and vines. The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is harvest time. Many fruit and vegetables will be at their best and most abundant. Eat what you can as fresh, but don’t waste anything; fill your freezer and/or make pickles, chutneys, jams, and other preserves for your store cupboard. You’ll be thankful the rest of the year.
Where or when it cools down, your garden plants and lawn grasses will be less stressed, and it is a good time to think about tidying, transplanting, planting, and lawn repair.
Many flowering plants will benefit from cutting back fading flowers and feeding to give an extended autumn flowering.
As leaves yellow and fall make sure you pick them up and add them to your compost heap.
Perennials such as Hosta, daylilies, Hellebores, Iris and Primulas, hardy geraniums and herbaceous peonies can be become choked together after 2-5 years, reducing the number of flowers they produce. Give yourself free plants for the garden and give the plants more blooming room by dividing large clumps, taking pieces from the outside and discarding the centres.
Autumn is a great time to do transplanting of trees and shrubs. They will be less stressed by the move when the conditions are not so hot, and the soil is cooler and has moisture. Dig the hole to be planted in first, make sure it is big enough and thoroughly saturate it. Then make sure you carefully dig out the tree or shrub with as much of the root ball as possible and place it on a tarpaulin or sheet to carry it to its new home. If the tree/shrub is going to be out of the soil for more than a few minutes use the tarpaulin or sheet to wrap around the roots and prevent them drying. Firm the soil around the tree/shrub and give it some more water.
Here are a few things you can plant in autumn:
- Spinach – If planted in a region prone to winter frost choose a sheltered spot or protect the plants when frost is expected.
- Leafy Greens – This is a good time to plant a range of leafy greens to provide you with healthy nutrition to go with your winter feasts.
- Broad beans and sugar snap peas – For great additions to casseroles and winter salads.
- Spring bulbs – Don’t forget to give them plenty of well-rotted organic matter and fertiliser.
Early autumn is the very best time to get your lawn healthy, weed-free, thickened and looking great in preparation for winter. Don’t wait for spring next year as so many do.
- Aerate and Improve Drainage - Aerate (spike) your lawn to improve oxygen movement to the grass roots and improve drainage so that the lawn soil is not waterlogged through the winter period. Push a garden fork 10-15 cm into the lawn and gently pull back on the fork to open the soil structure. Do this over the whole lawn or particularly compacted areas. This also encourages earthworms whose activity in the soil is beneficial because they redistribute nutrients and naturally aerate the soil.
- De-Thatch - Thatch is the dense spongy layer at the base of your lawn made up of tightly interwoven or compacted stems, leaves and roots. Lawns with high levels of thatch (2 cm or more) can create an environment in which disease and insect pests thrive. Poor drainage compacted soil and unfavourable pH can contribute to high levels of thatch.
- Rake out excess thatch now so the lawn has time to recover before winter.
- Clear Weeds - Lawn herbicides such as McGregor’s Lawn Weed Control are most effective when weeds are growing actively in autumn (and spring). Many weeds will continue to grow through the winter months, so dealing with them in autumn will mean many fewer to deal with in spring.
- Repair Patches - Early autumn is the most effective time to thicken your lawn up by over-sowing with grass seed and to fix bare patches. A thick lush lawn provides a good insulating layer which helps protect grass roots from frosts.
- Mowing - In later autumn raise your mower height a notch or two and keep your lawn a little longer through the cool months; a good autumn/winter mowing height is approximately 40 mm.
If you have ticked off these ‘to do's’ you will be able to sit back a little through winter and look forward to a great start to spring.01 August 2021