Preparing your Autumn Garden
This is a fun time of the year when you can dream about and plan for the crops to come in the growing season. This is the ideal time for preparing your garden soil before the actual seeds go into the ground.
1. Harvesting the last of the summer crops – leave the roots.
Remove the old tomato and squash plants as they finish producing fruit and cut off bean stalks at soil level so the roots can decompose. Instead of digging to get every last root, just give the plants a quick tug and take what comes up easily.
The part of the root system that’s left behind will add nitrogen and encourage beneficial microbes, whose digestive efforts produce humus. Humus not only helps keep soil moist and aerated, but also assists plants in getting the nutrients they need to flourish.
Remove any unwanted plants and weeds. If plants are diseased, you need to remove all of the roots to avoid allowing the disease to overwinter in the soil.
2. Preparing your soil
Soil preparation is critical at this time of the year – it should be your main focus or ‘investment’ into the garden. About two weeks before planting, add good organic compost/ fertiliser such as ReStore – ideal for adding nutrients, as well as stimulating microbial growth with its biochar content.
If you get your compost in place while soil is still warm, the microbes and beneficial soil-dwelling critters will start working right away to break it down and get it ready for spring.
Sprinkle ReStore over garden beds and lawn before winter rains to encourage a humus-rich, spongy soil that holds water and suppresses weed growth.
3. Pile on the leaves or mulch
It takes very little effort to pile mulch all over your garden, in the paths and on the beds. Mulching is important because it creates a protective covering that insulates the soil from extreme temperatures; helping to protect plants, retain water and encourage worms to stay active longer into the season.
No matter what form of compost or fertilizer you’ve put on the garden, cover it with mulch. You can buy mulch in the form of bark or wood chips from your local nursery – or make your own with raked autumn leaves, twigs, pine needles, grass clippings, straw or newspaper.
Organic mulch will decompose and have to be replaced, but in the process, it will also improve your soil’s structure and its organic content.
4. Planting cover crops
A cover crop is a crop or combination of crops planted primarily to manage soil erosion, soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds, pests, diseases, biodiversity and wildlife in an agro-ecosystem.
Recommended cover crops include sunn hemp, black oats, velvet beans, dolichos beans, cow peas, forage sorghum, dry beans, soya beans, clovers, chick peas, buckwheat, black oats, white oats, stooling rye, barley, wheat, lupins, lucerne, teff, rye grass, and vetch. Any of these crops will pull nutrients up from the subsoil, remove excess water, and (when you turn them under in the spring), return nitrogen and organic matter to the soil.
It is important to note that you need to sow seeds while the soil is still warm enough to allow for germination, which usually means late summer in colder regions and early fall in warmer areas. If you’re too late to plant this time around, just add it to the calendar for next year.
Invest a little time in your soil this autumn and you’ll reap the rewards next spring and summer.
Planting your Autumn Garden
The official planting day for winter is the 21st March, the Autumn Equinox. It is a helpful reminder for planting the new season’s crops but regarded as a flexible guideline rather than a static rule.
Although direct seed planting is by far the cheapest way to plant, it is a higher risk as many seeds do not germinate and young shoots are delicate and vulnerable.
It is recommended to rather plant seeds in containers while the compost is settling in the bed. Then after two or three weeks, transplant the home-grown seedlings into your garden.
Fill discarded toilet roll tubes with potting soil and plant your seeds in it. Keep it moist and it will grow very well. Once ready for transplanting, you can simply place the tube into the ground as the cardboard will eventually decompose, leaving the plant to grow into the garden soil. This works particularly well with the brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli etc). Try it also with swiss chard, parsley and lettuce. Note that these are all plants that grow above ground.
Which Vegetables To Plant in Autumn (Western Cape)
• Beans (Broad)
• Swiss chard
Most winter crops are root vegetables – ideal for warming stews and heavy soups. Root vegetables are better suited to direct sowing. Having spaced your rows accordingly, plant your root vegetable seeds such as carrot, beetroot, potato, radish and turnip.
The onion or allium family grows well in winter. A useful tip is to plant alliums around the perimeter of your vegetable garden, like a ring of defensive, smelly, pest and mole control. This can be done successfully with spring onions, leeks, brown onions and red onions.
How to pair plants
Companion plants have many potential benefits for their partner plant counterparts. They can help each other grow by attracting pollinators or repelling pests in addition to providing beneficial nutrients, shade, or support.
Winter companion plants include rosemary with the brassicas (such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, and turnips), peas with carrots, parsley with lettuce, beetroot with swiss chard, and potatoes with mint – although remember mint’s invasiveness warrants it be planted in a submerged pot.
Carrots will deter leeks’ pests, and the leeks will keep the carrots’ pests away. By planting broccoli and onions in close proximity to each other in the garden, you can improve the flavor of your broccoli. Planting garlic near beets also improves the flavor of the beets, and the sulfur that garlic produces as it grows acts as an antifungal that helps prevent disease in the beets.
When laying out your garden, put the tallest plants in the south of the garden so they do not cast a shadow on other plants.
Which decorative plants to plant?
Sow or plant winter and spring flowering seedlings like African daisies, sweet peas, snapdragons, pansies for beautiful colour.
Plant water-wise plants now so that they can benefit from the rainfall to get established.
- It is the time to prune evergreen hedges, summer-flowering shrubs and overgrown climbers and deadhead roses to encourage an autumn flush.
- Mix ReStore fertiliser with water-absorbing granules into the soil of container plants. ReStore will add nutrients while the granules will swell up and absorb the rainwater for use by the plants when water is scarce.
- Build water retaining dams around thirsty plants like roses, camellias and azaleas.
In conclusion, remember that well prepared beds will make the biggest difference for the plants – the healthier the soil, the healthier the plants.
Enrich your soil with ReStore now!
Build your soil’s natural capacity to retain moisture, discourage weeds and pests; and nurture plants & crops with ReStore Regenerative Fertiliser.
For more information or orders:
Call or Whatsapp us on 066 129 6862