Autumn cleanup

This week, I’m cleaning up my own messy garden and getting it ready for winter. Some areas don’t get enough sun to grow any food crops for the next few months, and others just need a spruce up and a bit of compost and fertiliser.

I’ve started by going through with my Niwashi (japanese hand toold for weeding and planting) to get rid of any annoying weeds, but leave those that will protect the soil over winter. I also reformed the beds, which makes it look more tidy and helps with drainage – just using the fork to puncture the bed, letting some air in, and then the rake to shape it nice and high. Flatten off the top and add some compost and/or nature’s Garden, and it’s ready to be sown, planted or mulched.

The beds that don’t get any sun over winter, or just a couple of hours a day, will be covered with half decomposed compost and then a layer of mulch. Mulch is any fluffy material which will break down over time. I often use cacao husks if I can get hold of them.  Where there’s some sun but not enough for food crops, I broadcast sow calendula, borage, phacelia, clover, oats or whatever I happen to have seeds for and which will grow in low temperatures. These are my cover crops and will end up in my spring compost piles.

Anywhere there’s enough sun for food crops, I plant out well grown seedlings of winter hardy and easy care vegetables: kale, collards, silverbeet, perpetual spinach or rainbow chard. I also pop in a few lettuces, but I eat less salads in winter so I’m only planting what I’ll actually eat. Under and between these bigger veges, I broadcast sow radishes and baby leaf lettuce (Green Salad Bowl is the variety I use) to cover the soil and make the most of the space. By the time the kale or beet is mature, I’ve already eaten the radishes.

These beds will need very consistent liquid feed over winter. Make sure the product you use contains good quantities of potassium, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium, the core nutrients for photosynthesis, so that the plants can make maximum use of the low sun over winter. Use it well diluted once a week on all your food plants – I personally don’t worry about the cover crops.

All my perennials get bedded down now. Plenty of mulch, but I don’t put any compost down now as it’s had a tendency to make them grow now instead of in spring. In another month or two when they go dormant I’ll prune them. As the buds swell in spring I’ll move the remaining mulch away and feed with good compost.

Last year, at this time, I moved some spring bulbs around and it’s a good time to do that now. It’s also time to plant new ones for some beauty and colour in spring. Talking about bulbs, prepare your garlic bed now with plenty of compost so you have time to weed them before planting the garlic cloves! I won’t do any this year, for lack of space, so I almost forgot to mention it!

Next workshop is Edible Oasis Maintenance – remember to register in time!

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