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Autumn – a time of rest, rejuvenation, celebration, and planning


Cool nights, warm days and March Equinox leads us into the next seasonal cycle. For many gardeners, including me, autumn is a time we reflect on our gardening success and failures. What can I improve for the following season? The cooler season gives us the opportunity to tidy up, rest garden beds, plan and prepare soils for a spring cornucopia.
Autumn is the time we see deciduous plants hibernate, reserving their energy throughout the colder months to reemerge in spring. During this process, the green leaf colour known as chlorophyll begins to die back. Chlorophyll is created through a photosynthesis process energising the plant’s life force to fruit and bloom. The plant retreats inwards reserving its energy until it is time to reawaken.
Leaf colour changes from green to warming, intense shades of red, orange, yellow and brown. At the right time plants release most or all its leaves – “letting go” as she prepares for dormancy. A beautiful, spectacular display of warming colours litter the landscape. Good, nourishing litter that is useful to create healthy compost. I usually mulch the leaves before adding to the compost bin that creates a finer compost. It is always good practice to check if any bugs or disease are present among the leaves, if so, do not add to your compost bin. Collect the leaves and dispose of them thoughtfully to reduce possible spread into fresh, clean garden beds.

Edible and ornamental plants
Deciduous trees – fruit and exotics drop their leaves. Some plants (vegetable and ornamental) die back fully to be pulled out and composted (where appropriate) making way to nourish soil beds in preparation for spring and some winter crops. Remember to collect seed and clearly label the particulars.

Rejuvenating beds, planning, maintenance
I usually dedicate two beds to sit and rest for at least nine months. Another bed dedicated for winter crops that are nutritionally demanding, example – broccoli and kale. The beds are alternated seasonally as part of my crop rotation system.
Succession planting is good practice to consider extending a crop’s harvest.
A diary dedicated to our garden practices is a must. It helps us to better navigate the year’s successes and failures. Documenting our observations helps us to form better practice and remedy any difficult challenges. Most of us would agree that nature throws us a few unexpected climate challenges compounding our understanding of how to work with nature; questioning what processes we need to change or adjust.

Garden tasks – checklist
Autumn is a great time to check over garden tools and attend to repairs.
Check raised beds for splitting, deterioration.
Check irrigation system.
If space permits, set aside a couple of beds to rest during the year.
Replenish spent soil with organic matter.
Never add potting mix to soil because they are two different growing mediums.
Clean and sharpen all tools including spades.
After each use all tools must be wiped down (weak solution of vinegar and water) to prevent spread of disease.
Check first aid kit.
Remove plant labels and put them in a safe place. If left on the plant outside, they fade over time. The plastic ties merge into the plant as it grows creating wounds in the bark that may be detrimental to the plant. I usually place them in a dedicated box or envelope.
Replace garden stakes if broken.
Ensure a good supply of plant food on hand.
Check gloves for holes, always wash after use.
Good quality masks to wear when opening bags of potting mix and any growing medium.
Do you have a leaky watering can?

Plants to consider growing
Australian natives.
Kale, beetroot, broad beans, carrots, endive, snow peas, turnips, parsley, oregano, garlic, cauliflower, saffron.
Poppy, foxglove, calendula, carnation, cornflower, cosmos, sweet pea, camellia, and various flowering bulbs, tubers, and corms – tulips, daffodils, iris, hyacinth.
Tip: If you love coriander, plant seedlings or sow seeds in autumn / winter. The plant loves moist conditions; leaving it too late the plant will bolt to seed.

Autumn landscapes and art exhibition
If you are not a keen gardener there are many regions you can visit to experience the stunning open autumnal landscape. Here in Victoria the Harvest Moon Festival and Victorian Autumn Festivals are celebrated. Marysville, Mt Dandenong, Bright, and Victoria’s High Country are stunning places to visit. For us locally we can enjoy our own backyards – Mirboo North, Walhalla, Broughton Hall and further out Buchan Caves Reserve.
A few years back I had the opportunity to visit an exhibition at New York Botanical Gardens where artist Philip Haas created an interpretation of Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s Four Seasons. Philip created four massive artworks representing winter, autumn, spring, and summer.
I leave you with a poem written by an Australian writer Monty Edwards.

Unpredictable Autumn
There is no “ought” in Autumn- It’s bound to disobey. It doesn’t like to keep a rule, But far prefers to play. Sometimes cool and sometimes warm, Sometimes sunshine, sometimes storm, Think it over. You will find Autumn can’t make up its mind!
Please be safe and let me know how you are getting on with your tasks.