preparing for winter
It’s cooling down and growth rates are slowing. It’s time to harvest, re-replant and batten down the hatches.
We are now in the second month of autumn and some of us are experiencing a noticeable drop in overnight temperatures. This is a great month to clean up the garden. Burn all diseased plants and compost any other organic matter.
Ripe for the picking
Aubergine and the last avocados are available. Carrots, celery and the last of the summer courgettes are here. New season kumara is also ready.
Do you have any tomatoes still growing which are taking an age to ripen and turn red? Harvest them now and make green tomato chutney. Alternatively you can pull up the entire plant and hang in a cool place. The fruit will ripen as it hangs. Pumpkins may also be ready to harvest. When the stem of the pumpkin is dry it is ready to be cut. Stored on a shelf without touching each other, pumpkins will last through winter. Keep planting small regular sowings of winter crops. Why not try growing some less common brassica varieties such as curly leafed kale, great stir fried with butter, or Tuscan kale (Cavelo Nero) which is lovely quickly fried in butter and served in a pasta dish. Plant broad bean and beetroot seeds straight into the garden. I always soak the corky looking beetroot seeds for 24 hours beforehand to soften the seed. If you are short on spare time, and who isn’t, choose to grow the dwarf broad bean as it does not require so much staking and support as its lofty brothers.
Keep harvesting the late season apples such as Fuji and Braeburn. Feijoas are abundant this month. Make crumbles, muffins, smoothies or wine with the excess. I scoop out the feijoa flesh and freeze in ice cream containers for later. Prune your feijoa tree once you have harvested the crop. Feijoa flowers grow at the base of new growth and the flowers are pollinated by birds. Open the tree up by removing dense branches to allow birds to reach these flowers. Fruit trees will benefit from a feed this month. Spread compost or blood and bone fertiliser around the drip line of each tree or bush.
It is a good time to plant Chervil. This herb looks similar to parsley and can be used in soups, salads and vinegars. Sow the seeds or plant in full sun in a rich soil. You can leave the plant to self seed. The comfrey plant is a great perennial herb to have in your garden. The leaves look like oversized hairy dock leaves and the plant has a deep tap root. It mines minerals from the soil and stores them in the leaf. The plant is not for eating but does have many uses around the garden. Cut the leaves and spread around your fruit trees, add to your compost, make a fertiliser tea or feed to your chooks.