The days are shorter, the air is crisper, and we’re starting to pull out the winter woolies! Autumn has well and truly arrived. This picturesque season is the perfect opportunity to give the garden a good tidy-up, so come springtime you’re ready to jump in and get growing. Taking the time to maintain things at this time of year will save you a lot of hard work later when the weather warms up. Take a look at the tidy-up tips below before you roll up your sleeves.
Clear out the old
A good place to start is tidying up vege and flower beds: now is the time to remove old vegetable plants, and any annuals that have finished blooming. Removing them now reduces the chance of pests & diseases for your next crop. Compost these old plants, or simply bury them in your garden to add some healthy organic matter (just remember not to compost or bury any diseased plants!).
Taking the time to weed is also a good idea, even if there aren’t many growing at this time of year - it will make weeding much easier come spring and summer.
Remove any other intrusive debris from the rest of your garden, raking up leaves and fallen fruit. Turning leaves into mulch or compost can be a useful trick that your garden will thank you for down the track! If you choose to compost your fallen leaves, make sure to add enough “green matter” such as food waste or grass clippings, which are nitrogen-rich. Dry leaves are “brown matter”, which are carbon-rich. The ratio of your compost pile should be about 2 parts green to 1 part brown.
We should note that leaving a pile or two of leaves around your garden is not always a bad thing - they can provide welcome and valuable shelter for pollinators over the colder winter months. Just rake the pile into an out-of-the-way place, such as underneath a hedge.
Remember to clear out gutters and any drainage too, if necessary.
Replenish soil & protect plants
Now is also the perfect time to revitalise tired soil. Doing this during autumn gives any added nutrients time to break down and become active. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of your compost (if you have your own compost heap or bin) after the summer heat, as it’s likely ready for use after sitting through the warmer months.
When removing old plants and annuals from the garden, loosen the soil with a gardening fork and mix in a handful of compost. This will ensure the soil is refreshed and ready for replanting in spring. You can also pack a layer of compost around the base of shrubs and perennial plants - just make sure to leave a gap of a few centimeters between the compost and the stem. If you have manure, adding this now will help to nurture the soil as well. By the time we hit spring, your soil should be refreshed and ready to go another round.
This is also the time to use all those leaves you raked up! Mulched leaves can be used to prevent weeds, to protect the soil beneath from cold conditions, and to help retain moisture. Simply shred the leaves (running a lawn mower over them a few times is an easy way to do this), and they are ready to use as mulch - you don’t want them to fully decompose as you would when composting.
If you don’t have an abundance of fallen leaves on hand you can use straw or grass clippings instead. A layer of mulch will ward off pests and weeds, and help keep the soil temperature from fluctuating too much. When it eventually breaks down, your mulch will enrich the soil too. Remember to weed before laying down your mulch, and be sure to leave a gap between the mulch and the plant stem. Wet mulch that is laid too close to stems could cause rot.
An obvious one is to give the grass a mow! Grass clippings can be added to your compost heap or even used as mulch (see above). If possible, don’t cut your lawn too short - soil-enriching bugs often like to burrow down in the grass over winter. Some of these beneficial insects to have around include Ground Beetles, Praying Mantises, and Ladybugs. These helpful critters eat many unwelcome garden pests such as aphids, keeping their populations at a manageable level. Keeping the lawn slightly longer over winter will help them to help you!
Aerating your lawn in autumn also comes with many benefits, and if done regularly will make lawn maintenance much easier. Aeration helps to strengthen and stimulate grass root growth, preparing it for colder conditions. It will also prevent water from pooling by allowing it to run off.
Clean and store tools
Proper garden tool maintenance and storage is essential for the longevity of your equipment. Cleaning your tools should be done year-round, not just in the autumn, but your annual autumn tidy-up is a good excuse to check everything is in ship shape! For an in-depth guide on garden tool cleaning and storage, you can read our previous blog post here.
Plant spring-flowering bulbs
After removing old plants, now is the time to plant your favourite spring-flowering bulbs! Here in NZ, autumn is the ideal time for this. Not only will they provide a happy burst of colour to your garden once spring arrives, they will also provide a nice, early food source for pollinators after winter.
Feed the birds
...and our final tip is: remember to keep feeding your backyard birds! Although it may soon be too cold to enjoy the garden with them, they will still appreciate a bit of extra nourishment. Keep your bird feeders topped up and ready for your feathered friends to visit over the cooler months.
Enjoy your autumn garden!
If you’ve managed to tick off all of your autumn garden preparations already, well done! If not, we encourage you to dig in (literally) and get started. While we still have the coldest months coming up ahead, spring will be upon us before we know it, and you’ll soon be reaping the rewards of the ‘hard yards’ put in now. Doing an annual autumn garden tidy up will make for a flourishing garden that’s easier to maintain - sign us up for that!
You can check out our website for heaps of handy garden tools and accessories - from rakes, to tub trugs, garden bags & more - that will make your autumn clean-up a breeze.