“Our trees rise in cones, globes and pyramids. We see the marks of scissors upon every plant and bush….I would rather look upon a tree in all its luxuriancy and diffusion of boughs and branches, then when it is thus cut and trimmed into a mathematical figure; and cannot but fancy that an orchard in flower looks infinitely more delightful, than all the little labyrinths of the most finished parterre.”
Joseph Addison (1672 – 1719)
Autumn is about more than colouring foliage. Despite an indifferent summer, we are gently morphing into autumn. When the autumn rains arrive – which they will and probably sooner rather than later – it is a signal that optimal planting time is here, particularly for woody trees and shrubs which includes hedges. Planting in autumn gives time for root systems to start developing before growth slows down or stops in winter, positioning the plants to take full advantage of spring growth. It means most plants will be well established before the potential stress of drought next summer. The more traditional spring planting dates back to the days when garden centres did not get delivery of new season stock until late winter. Nowadays, most nursery stock is container grown and available all year round but old gardening habits die hard. The more drought-prone you are, the more important it is that you plant before winter, not after it.
While you are waiting for the autumn rains, you can be planting out winter vegetables. The reference to “winter veg” does not mean you plant them in winter. They need to be planted in autumn because they make most of their growth before winter and can then be held in the ground through the lower temperatures to be harvested fresh as required. White butterflies are still very active, so if you are planting winter brassicas (and that includes rocket and many of the Chinese greens as well as the usual cabbage, cauli and broc), you may need to erect some sort of cover to stop them becoming caterpillar fodder in the early stages.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.