Life & Style Weekend - - GARDEN - GREEN THUMB WORDS: MA­REE CUR­RAN Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email ma­[email protected]­nat­by­

At last, some real au­tumn weather – for now. There’s been a bit of rain and tem­per­a­tures are a bit milder. Af­ter the hot, dry sum­mer our gar­dens are in des­per­ate need of some love and care. But now, the time and the con­di­tions are right to get back into it. Au­tumn is a re­ally im­por­tant and im­mensely re­ward­ing time in the gar­den­ing cal­en­dar. It’s time to plant cool sea­son flow­er­ing favourites – pan­sies, vi­o­las, prim­u­las and sweet peas. And spring-flow­er­ing bulbs – daf­fodils, freesias and jon­quils. Win­ter crops in­clud­ing broc­coli, cab­bage, broad beans, spinach, peas, snow peas and kale can go in now. Other leafy greens such as spinach, let­tuce, sil­ver­beet and Asian greens will be much eas­ier to grow. Gar­lic and pota­toes can also be planted. I strug­gle to grow soft herbs like coriander and dill in sum­mer. My cos let­tuce goes to seed too quickly and heart­ing types like

ice­bergs rot out in the cen­tre. But these are much eas­ier to grow when it’s cooler. We should see the pop­u­la­tions of grasshop­pers dwin­dle – most pests will be less ac­tive. Of course, the white cab­bage moth will be about, so you need to pro­tect the plants their cater­pil­lars love to eat – broc­coli, cab­bage, kale, sil­ver­beet and Asian greens. You can use fine in­sect net­ting to keep them off your plants, or you can use one of the food-safe in­sec­ti­cides such as Dipel. You can also just pick the cater­pil­lars off as you see them. And try some com­pan­ion plant­ing – white alyssum can act as a de­ter­rent and looks very pretty too. Le­banese cress is said to help re­pel them and the leaves add a lovely zesty flavour to sal­ads. Bush beans, cel­ery, onions, spinach, marigold, nas­tur­tium and strongly scented herbs such as pep­per­mint and oregano are good bras­sica com­pan­ions. Your whole gar­den, in­clud­ing the lawn, will ben­e­fit from be­ing fer­tilised with a com­plete plant food. You can also top up the mulch in gar­den beds to help reg­u­late soil tem­per­a­ture. Au­tumn is also the best time to es­tab­lish new gar­dens and an ideal time to plant shrubs and trees, in­clud­ing fruit trees. Thanks to the milder tem­per­a­tures and more re­li­able rain, ev­ery­thing we plant now will have plenty of time to set­tle in be­fore the sum­mer heat ar­rives again. So, if you want to make some ma­jor changes or im­prove­ments to your gar­den, don’t wait un­til spring. Do it now.

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