Autumn is my favorite time in the garden. A time to enjoy the slowing down, the stasis, the last active gasp before winter approaches. A quiet time, to bask in the sun’s warmth and to appreciate the last of the slow harvesting and flowering crops. The now slanting sun and its ‘alternative spring’ – where soils are still warm and the perennials are flowering a second time, germination is possible, for a short time again. Insects are focussed on their last expansive tasks. It’s a time you can be outside more, and take it all in.
It seems like the season has finally arrived, though it’s been windy. And perhaps without the usual cues. No real autumn break yet, for example. It also seems we have to adapt to a new way of gardening, one which I, nor the seeds I’m trying to sow, are accustomed to – though I can also blame slaters, ants and bugs, placement, seed age, plus Coliban water (there was something strange happening when the mains pipes were ‘cleaned’ including yellowing and dying seedlings) but perhaps, really, I haven’t yet grown green enough thumbs, despite my love of autumn, and plants.
It now feels like the weather has truly turned. Think about planting leafy greens which will feed you right through winter if planted now and into May. It’s also a great time for planting herbs and perennials, shrubs and trees, and for striking cuttings of herbs and many other edible plants. Don’t forget to feed your soil well with compost, well rotted organic matter and some lime or dolomite. Give your perennials a feed of worm juice and/or seaweed solution, if not compost teas. Think about making compost with the residues of harvest. Though we plan to do compost making in spring this year, going on the dearth of green and other feedstuff of the last few autumns. The first application of biodynamic preps for the year – BD500 followed by BD501 is also a job for this month, but only if it rains enough. We’ll try and plant our fundraising garlic crop too.
It’s vital to rotate crops with different types and families, eg. fruit (tomatoes, eggplants – solonacae, or pumpkins, zukes curcubits ) followed by root (carrot – umbelliferae) followed by flower (broccoli, caulis – brassicae), etc. and leaf (lettuce, cabbage, silverbeet, etc) – going by the BD way. And make sure at least one rotation is a green manure crop that you dig back into the ground without eating it. If you have limited space it’s important to regularly feed the soil – add compost everytime you plant, and regularly during the season, incorporate mulches after they have broken down, use worm castings and juice. Harvesting veges means you are harvesting soil nutrients; they need to be replaced. And you need to confuse the soil borne bugs and other pestilent things that will do harm, especially if the same plant families are repeated again, and again. Find out more about biodynamic crop rotation here.
The soils will be dry despite the last inch of rain we’ve had; soil microbes will be absent, if not hibernating deeply. Try to keep them alive and engaged. Though I suspect they’re far more resilient than gardeners. Observe which plants have done well and where in your garden and act when you can replace or remove them. At the same time, beware of weediness and takeover of the opportunists and colonisers. (Not naming you, fartichokes, amaranth, calendulas, etc)
Autumn, and April especially, should be a really active and aware time for the garden. Enjoy your place in it.
Gardening Dates for temperate areas of SE Australia:
Leaf Days: 6-8, 13-16, 24-27: amaranth, bok choi, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, celery, coriander, endive, mibuna, mizuna, orach, rocket, tat soi, lettuce, mustard, silverbeet, chard, spinach, chives, garlic chives, coriander, dill, parsley
Fruit Days: 1-2, 8-10, 15-19, 27-29: broad beans, mustard, peas, snopeas, peas
Root Days: 2-4, 10-12, 19-22, 29-30: beetroot, carrots, celeriac, fennel, garlic, garlic chives, bunching onion, kohlrabi, leek, parsnip, radish, daikon radish, swede, turnip
Flower Days: 4-6, 12-14, 22-24: broccoli, borage, cauliflower, all flowers (poppies, lupins, calendula, etc)
Moon Opposite Saturn (considered a good date for sowing seeds, applying preps and planting, or 48hrs either side): 11
Node Days (avoid planting if you can): 6, 19
Apogee (moon furthest from earth; less lunar influence): 22
Perigee (moon clostest to eath; more lunar influence): 8
New Moon/Full Moon: 7/22(and apogee 2.05am)
Moon descending: 1-12, 27-30
Moon ascending: 13- 27
Apply soil fertilisers, compost: 2-4, 6-8, 9-11, 29-30
Prune, take cuttings, plant seedlings: 2-4, 10-11, 29-30
Apply foliar fertilisers: 12-14, 15-19, 22-26
Graft: 13-14, 22-24
Dates are a guide for these particular crops. Timing will vary from region to region (particularly with climate change) and even within a garden’s own microclimates. Of course, rainfall, weather conditions and your own schedule will influence when you garden.