What a beautiful autumn we are having this year – at least at the time of writing this. Plenty of sunshine, enough rain to help our gardens thrive . . . and no COVID! After a fairly productive summer, it’s fantastic that our cool-season crops are getting a good start. If you haven’t yet begun sowing or planting your winter veg yet, you’ve still got plenty of time. Getting in early though can give your crops a bit of a boost with the tail end of the warmth.
There are a few vegetables that do better if you get them going early, particularly those that you want to form tight heads, such as brussels sprouts and cabbages. Mini cabbages are pretty quick, but large cabbages and the sprouts are best grown strong heading into the cooler months where they develop their dense structure. Garlic, snow peas, broad beans and winter onions can also go in over the next few weeks to give you a nice early harvest.
If you think your soil may require a little rejuvenating, consider doing this now before planting. Many of our summer crops are pretty heavy feeders and they use up a lot of the valuable nutrients that the subsequent crops require. Your soil structure too may have become a little thin and sandy – another good indication that it’s time to give the beds some help. Adding homemade or purchased compost is the easiest way to begin repairing the vital soil structure that will help your plants grow strongly. There are many more options open to the home gardener, and it is well worth reading further about your soil because getting this right is the most important aspect of producing healthy, nutritious crops.
Once your soil is nice and fluffy again, make sure you check over that old irrigation system. You could have the most beautiful soil and still have failures if you don’t give your plants regular, daily water. Although our minds tell us that “winter equals rain”, it doesn’t often work that way. Waiting a week for the skies to open is too long. Your soil will dry out well before then and your plants will begin to suffer. I can’t recommend highly enough the advantages of having a well-functioning irrigation system connected to a quality timer – and ideally a rain sensor!
Our deciduous fruit trees have finished fruiting and are now beginning to lose their leaves as they head towards dormancy. It’s a great time to give them a good feed – and actually this is a good job for the kids to get them out there with you to help. Once they get going, many kids really enjoy helping their folks in the food garden because it has a purpose. It’s a time when you can explain how these things work, give them a greater appreciation and understanding of food, water, soil, bugs, birds . . . all that. It’s getting them out there in the first place that is the most difficult. Good luck with that one.