As autumn sweeps over Canberra, and brings beautiful outdoor conditions with it, there’s plenty to do in the garden to continue your summer growing and simultaneously prepare for winter.
It’s time to start planting garlic. Bulbs should be purchased from a nursery or reputable online supplier as store bought ones are usually sprayed with growth inhibitors and may also contain viruses.
A relatively simple crop to grow, garlic requires a well-drained, reliably moist and compost-rich soil with a neutral to slightly acid pH. Drainage can be improved by planting into raised beds. Make sure it’s a nice sunny spot which receives at least four hours sunlight.
Planting can be carried out in autumn from March to early May, depending on the variety. Separate bulbs into cloves and plant with pointy sides up, approximately 3-5cm deep and 10cm apart. Space rows around 20cm apart. You should fit around 50 cloves per square metre.
Give your crop an application of fertiliser tea at around six weeks once foliage growth appears, as well as a couple of times during spring, to promote strong healthy plants. Avoid using nitrogenous fertilisers during their last few months of development, as it encourages soft bulbs which won’t cure or store well.
Autumn is the time to garden
- To secure the pick of the crop for autumn, get in early and order your open-rooted plants, spring flowering bulbs, corms and other goodies. To establish a productive tree, Fleming’s has an excellent beginner guide to pruning called Pruning fruit, ornamental and flowering trees; flemings.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/pruning_multi_page.pdf
- Extend the growing season of summer veggie crops by constructing cloches around plants to keep them warm at night. Recycled bubble wrap and thick plastic work well. Once daytime temperatures have dropped below 20oC, you can leave cloches on during the day too.
- Autumn is a great time to propagate strawberry plants. I find planting healthy runners into pots while they are still attached to the main plant is especially successful, as the runners develop their own root systems within a few weeks. While on the job, remove plants over two years old as fruiting is noticeably diminished after this time. Thin out remaining plants to promote larger fruit next season. Lastly, top dress with a layer of quality organic matter, such as compost.
- Mobile worm farms should be moved to warmer territories for the winter, to keep them active and happy. Composting worms tolerate temperatures down to around 10oC, therefore requiring added measures to maintain this. A sunny and protected north-facing spot is ideal, as are insulated garages or the laundry. You can also cover the farm in old carpet or a blanket.
- Bug of the week would have to be aphids, they are everywhere! Avoid sprays if you can as they affect all bugs, including beneficial insects such as the dainty ladybird. Try hosing them off when you are out watering and leave the odd juicy weed or two around to lure and distract them from desirable plants (remove weed seed heads before they form).