There will come a time, depending on where you live, when you have to kiss those mass producing summer crops farewell, and shift gears for the season ahead. Autumn gardening will happen at different times around Australia. You’ll find the cooler climates will lead this transition of seasons from summer to autumn.
There are so many delicious and nutritious crops to plant in autumn, but before you get to far ahead of yourself, you need to do some preparation. This will ensure your plants get off to a good start and grow nice and strong.
What you will notice is the weather can still get quite hot during the day but it’s the nighttime temperature that will start to drop as we head into March.
I love this time of year because I have so much more energy. I wish I could say the same thing for my garden. It’s looking like a graveyard at the moment. Everything from burnt leaves, even mildew on my pumpkin vines, and don’t get me started on the pests. I think I’d be safe to say, preparation time is now upon me.
Autumn gardening tips
Collect what you can from your summer crops which are on their last legs and don’t forget to let some go to seed. Bees will love the flowers and you can save some seeds for next season. Make sure you identify your crops that will cross over into autumn like beetroot, lettuce, capsicums, beans, and leave them in. Pumpkins and squash are starting to come into harvest, so let your vine crops slowly die back as they ripen.
You can enjoy harvesting a variety of herbs now as well. In particular, I like to cut back herb plants like rosemary, thyme and oregano which I use regularly in my garden kitchen. Then dry the herbs in the sun and store them so we can enjoy them over the cooler months in our hardy meals.
Composting your summer cleanup
If you haven’t invested in a compost I highly recommend having one in your food garden. It really does come in handy when you are cleaning out your end of season plants. The waste will break down because of the awesome work our compost worms and microorganisms do in recycling. You’ll then be able to use your rich organic matter to improve your soil at times like this. When pulling out your spent crops, cut everything up nice and small then add it to your compost. Make sure your composition is balanced and you also add some carbon materials in with your nitrogen ingredients (your spent crops). Get the composting basics here.
Your soil preparation will make or break your autumn crop by adding key nutrients and water retention properties into the soil. If you’ve been using mulch to protect your plants over the summer heat and it’s still in good condition, then push it aside to reuse. Or, if your mulch has or is breaking down, then simply work it through your soil. Remove any weeds during this process, and keep an eye out for any curl grubs as you turn the soil. If you do find them, remove them and feed them to the chooks or the native birds.
Now it’s time to identify and address your soil. After your summer crop, the soil will be depleted and in need of key nutrients. You can add a mix of any of the following: compost, manure, mushroom compost, organic pellets, and a sprinkle of lime. Lime will address any higher acidity levels which can be found in Australian soil.
Get to know your soil. If your soil struggles with extreme sand or clay, you’ll need to make some further adjustments. We talk about this more in the FREE Mini-course. If you want to learn more about your soil, check out our soil testing method which you can do with the kids.
Getting your seeds started
As we take this time to prepare our food garden, it’s also prime time to plant seeds so you can really cash in on the cost-benefit that comes with a food garden. You can purchase seeds in self-sufficiency packs for each season which are a great starting point. Or if you know exactly what you want to plant, then single seed packs are another choice. Seeds are usually started up to 6 weeks before planting out. Depending on where you live, now is the perfect time to start thinking about them. I find Asian Greens are awesome to start from seed if you want to get started with just one.
Planning your crop
I can’t stress enough how important planning your crop is. A productive self-sufficient food garden, of any size, works best when you know exactly how things are going to roll. From your plant choices, how you will plot them, what they will produce, how you’ll use your harvest, and which plants you are going to need to replant during the season. This is called staggered planting.
It’s always going to benefit your garden if you plan some good companions in as well.
Note: Your Autumn crops (seedlings) need a slightly cooler climate, so don’t get too excited and plant too early. What can happen is your brassicas (like your cabbage, Bok Choy, broccoli, cauliflower) can go to seed if the temperature is too high. From experience, it’s also a good idea to hold off on planting garlic until end of April.
Check out our Autumn Planting Guides for your climate and make that list.
Maintaining your autumn garden
Every season we need to remember that our food garden needs to feel the love. A good mulch is essential. During the season you can apply a top-up of nutrients with some compost or worm wee & castings. This will ensure your plants continue to be at their optimal performance.
The best defense with pest control is to be present in your patch. Note the changes, put things in place to deter pests, and you’ll stay ahead of their impact.
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Happy Gardening x
PS: I’d love to hear in the comments below, what you are planning for Autumn and what’s your favourite crops to grow. Go ahead, leave me a comment :).