May 9, 2008 Weekly Garden Guide

Just last week we were talking about autumn and continuing mild temperatures. We were a bit taken aback by the sudden descent into winter temperatures (forget three dog nights, it has been two full on fires here each night).

While temperatures should rally somewhat, it is timely to remind gardeners not to delay on battening down for winter. If you grow frost tender material, be prepared for an early frost. It only takes one unexpected frost to do a large amount of damage.

  • Cold weather saps the motivation of all but the most determined gardener, so grab any mild days to progress the autumn clean up round. Only inland gardeners in cold conditions will put their gardens to bed for winter. The rest of us have year round growth to some extent but a clean up round does make the place look much more loved. Mark hostas or other deciduous perennials now that you plan to divide when dormant. It makes finding them a great deal easier when they have gone underground.
  • Leaf drop will happen quickly now that temperatures have dropped so markedly. Obviously paths, driveways and sealed areas need to be kept clear of fallen leaves or they can become slippery (we still love our blower vac for this task but if you lack one of these, leaf rakes are much easier to use than garden rakes). Autumn leaves should be seen as part of nature’s bounty, not a nuisance or, horrors, something to be burned. Raked into a moist heap, they rot down really quickly to give wonderful leaf mulch.
  • It is definitely time to get broad beans sown. These are a real treat when harvested fresh and young.
  • As you complete autumn harvest of pumpkins, corn, potatoes, tomatoes etc, clear the beds and sow down green crops. Lupin is ideal at this time of the year and has wonderful nitrogen fixing properties.
  • Make weeding and mulching a priority. Reducing the weeds at this time of the year will greatly reduce their impact in spring and summer coming.
  • Pick up walnuts for drying. You need to beat the rats to them. If you are promising yourself to buy a walnut tree, look for grafted ones. Seedling grown walnuts are extremely unreliable and you may waste many years only to find that yours will never fruit properly.
  • Two hundred years ago, Samuel Butler wrote:

    Youth is like spring, an over-praised season more remarkable for biting winds than genial breezes. Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.

    Were he from Taranaki, this could be interpreted as advice not to forget to pick up your feijoas.