Autumn is a time of beauty in the garden, but there are still tasks to perform
By Jacki Brown
• Plants Trees: Autumn is the best time to plant trees because the soil is still warm enough for roots to establish, while the weather is not so hot or cold that the tree is likely to become stressed.
• Rack up Leaves: Autumn leaves lying on the lawn all winter can result in a dead lawn come spring, so rake fallen leaves and mulch or shred them so they will easily compost. Garden bags are handy for collecting the leaves as they’re lightweight and contain the leaves well, unlike using a wheelbarrow and having the leaves tumble out as you wheel it across the yard.
• Plant bulbs: It’s time to plant bulbs now for spring flowering. Jonquil bulbs can be planted towards the end of March, but all others are best planted in April.
• Enjoy autumnal Blooms: Flowering now are autumn crocus, chrysanthemums, banksia, Firewheel Tree, frangipani, crepe myrtle, hibiscus, dahlia and liriope, so enjoy!
• Also flowering: Sedum or Stonecrop is flowering now — this is a useful plant for rooftop gardens that can’t be accessed for watering, as they will survive on rainfall alone.
• Something to be wary of: You might also notice Norfolk Island Hibiscus producing masses of light pink flowers now. While it is a beautiful plant, be cautious about where you plant it, as its seed capsules contain fiberglass-like hairs that cause irritation and itching to eyes and skin.
• Create a shelter: A sheltered spot in the garden, such as a gazebo, lets you enjoy being outdoors with the beautiful autumn colours even in rainy weather.
• Harvest Edible Plants: Crops to be harvested now include mushrooms, tomatoes and capsicum.
• Fertilise fruit trees: In April you might like to fertilise your fruit trees with good-quality slow-release, all-purpose fertilser. Start pruning your berry-producing plants such as raspberries and brambles to get them into good shape for the growing and fruiting months ahead.
• Vegetables to plant: In most parts of Australia you can happily plant carrots, cauliflower, French beans, leeks, lettuce, silverbeet, spring onions and radish.
• Divide perennials: After spring-flowering perennial blossoms have died off, dig up and divide clumps, spread out and replant to fill spaces in the garden. This works for agapanthus, dietes, clivia, iris and hosta. Try to retain as many roots as possible and make sure you plant them into well-prepared soil.
• Time to clean: Autumn is time for cleaning up and preparing for winter’s short days. Remove dead plants and flowerheads and prepare the soil for next year’s growing season by adding organic matter or slow-release fertiliser.
• Pest patrol: Some common pests at this time of year include the paperbark sawfly, which defoliates melaleuca trees, while white cedar moth does the same to melia (white cedar) trees, both of which are common native plants used in gardens.
• Snails and slugs: In damp areas of the garden, snails and slugs can become very active. Use pet-friendly snail bait among the plants that are prone to being devoured.
• Time to weed: A lot of berry-producing weedy plants flower at this time of year, so take the opportunity while they’re easy to spot and pull them out before they go to seed. Some examples are cotoneaster, Sweet Pittosporum and Firethorn.
• Plant annuals: Annuals are available at your local nursery, garden centre or larger hardware stores, so pop along to see the huge array of punnets and seed packets available.
• Add a layer of mulch: Apply mulch to protect plants from winter frosts and cold winds by insulating their roots. Don’t apply mulch too close to tree trunks or plant stems.
• Lawn Care: After the vigorous grass growth during summer, you will find your lawn easing off now, so it won’t need mowing as often. Now is a good time to do a bit of lawn maintenance, such as aerating the lawn and adding a complete lawn food.