Pansies are a cool season flowering favourite.
Pansies are a cool season flowering favourite. iStock

Season important time on the gardening calendar

At last, some real autumn weather - for now. There's been a bit of rain and temperatures are a bit milder. After the hot, dry summer our gardens are in desperate need of some love and care.

But now, the time and the conditions are right to get back into it. Autumn is a really important and immensely rewarding time in the gardening calendar.

It's time to plant cool season flowering favourites - pansies, violas, primulas and sweet peas. And spring-flowering bulbs - daffodils, freesias and jonquils.

Winter crops including broccoli, cabbage, broad beans, spinach, peas, snow peas and kale can go in now. Other leafy greens such as spinach, lettuce, silverbeet and Asian greens will be much easier to grow. Garlic and potatoes can also be planted.

I struggle to grow soft herbs like coriander and dill in summer. My cos lettuce goes to seed too quickly and hearting types like icebergs rot out in the centre. But these are much easier to grow when it's cooler.

We should see the populations of grasshoppers dwindle - most pests will be less active. Of course, the white cabbage moth will be about, so you need to protect the plants their caterpillars love to eat - broccoli, cabbage, kale, silverbeet and Asian greens. You can use fine insect netting to keep them off your plants, or you can use one of the food-safe insecticides such as Dipel. You can also just pick the caterpillars off as you see them.

And try some companion planting - white alyssum can act as a deterrent and looks very pretty too. Lebanese cress is said to help repel them and the leaves add a lovely zesty flavour to salads. Bush beans, celery, onions, spinach, marigold, nasturtium and strongly scented herbs such as peppermint and oregano are good brassica companions.

Your whole garden, including the lawn, will benefit from being fertilised with a complete plant food. You can also top up the mulch in garden beds to help regulate soil temperature.

Autumn is also the best time to establish new gardens and an ideal time to plant shrubs and trees, including fruit trees. Thanks to the milder temperatures and more reliable rain, everything we plant now will have plenty of time to settle in before the summer heat arrives again.

So, if you want to make some major changes or improvements to your garden, don't wait until spring. Do it now!

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