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Autumn gardening

Autumn is an important time for the home gardener. Lisa Davis runs through some of the things you might want to do before the weather turns chilly.

You can feel the shift when autumn arrives; the weather cools down and the leaves start turning on the trees. While spring gardening, with its vibrant blooms, lush growth and the anticipation of stone fruit and a tomato crop served with fresh basil, can seem more rewarding and more urgent, there are a number of things home gardeners should prioritise over these months.

In the veggie patch

The most pressing job, to make way for autumn crops, will probably be to pull out those mostly dead tomato plants. The optimistic gardener will be loathe to (perhaps they’ll put out one last crop? Surely those are flower buds?), but even if they look promising, just remember that the fruit probably isn’t going to ripen properly anyway.

Go on. Yank them out. Clean slate.

Replace them with beans and peas; these can help put back in some of the nitrogen that crops like tomatoes take out. Leafy greens and herbs are also good to pop into the soil (or into pots) now. These benefit from regular watering with a seaweed fertiliser, but make sure to wash them thoroughly before use.

Root crops such as carrots, beetroot and turnips can go in too, but skip the seaweed for them, unless you want nothing but leafy tops. If they don’t seem to be doing well, consider adding some boron and/or phosphorous to your soil, as this is essential for strong plant root growth.

Prune, prune, prune

Now’s a good time to prune fruit trees and roses, shape decorative shrubs, cut away suckers on grafted plants and deal with dead branches. Citrus in particular benefits from an enthusiastic haircut, and while you’re at it, make sure to cut away any gall wasp bulges. Throw these cuttings out in sealed plastic so that they won’t spread.

Help your soil

Your plants have probably been busy growing over the summer, and your soil could most likely do with a nutrient top-up. So what should you feed?

Lawns like a feed in spring and autumn (you might want to aerate too), as do citrus trees and garden beds generally. There are a lot of specialised products available, so ask at your local nursery what might be best for your garden.

It’s usually advisable to water before feeding, and then again afterwards, but check your product information.

Then it’s time to mulch, mulch, mulch. It not only looks neater, it helps reduce water usage, prevents weeds and, when it breaks down, feeds the soil.

Image: Halil I. Inci