The passage of the equinox ushers in the true beginning of autumn. This year has been right on schedule with cooler temperatures and recent rains making for pleasant outdoor gardening conditions and workable soils. Think first before you rush out to the nursery to buy plants for the following display.
The gardens that you plant now could be made to flower either in winter and/or spring or even later. Chances are that these displays will be the most colourful and spectacular of the entire year if correctly created. Best results usually follow from planting what your garden likes to grow rather than what you necessarily want to grow.
Look at your microclimate and soils carefully and choose plants that are best suited to those
surroundings. Pretty Pink Shades pansies aren’t going to enjoy dense shade any more than delicate windflowers are going to tolerate dry, baking sun. Most garden failures come from placing the wrong plant in the wrong place out of a whim of fancy.
The easiest way to better understand how your garden site works is through careful observation each season. Check the angle of sun and amount of shade, wind and sheltered pockets, availability of water, and the quality of the soil. These critical factors can sometimes be improved by the gardener through pruning, erecting various wind barriers, and soil improvement.
If unsure of what to do and plant, write down your observations and take them to a local
expert. This might be a good gardener down the street, an official at MAF, a commercial grower, professionals at the botanical garden, or possibly even a well-informed employee of a local garden centre.
Certainly the first chore will be to remove or cut back the summer colour as it fades. Then clear the beds of debris and start to prepare the soil for autumn planting. Dig the soil over deeply. Remove all weeds and associated roots and bulbs like oxalis and onion weed.
If there have been problems of fungus or disease, turn the soil and let it sun-scald for at least a week, then turn it again to sterilise in the ultraviolet rays. Most flowers and vegetables demand rich soils. For this reason compost is often added in generous amounts. Spreading
3-5cm in depth over the soil surface is essential and 10-15cm is not excessive.
To further enrich, blood and bone, lime, and wood ashes can also be added. Trace elements and concentrated boosts of minerals can be included with commercial plant foods. Once dug in, let the soil settle and absorb this mix for at least a week before planting if possible. In the meantime start collecting the planting materials you’ll need. One of the true glories of spring are the bulbs.
Whenever possible, it is best to plant these first. Then bedding plants, groundcovers, perennials or even low shrubs are planted over the top of them to extend the colour display. Bulbs can be purchased and planted through June.
Over the next few weeks I will feature a series of popular spring bulbs and show you how to plant them and what other plants work well planted amongst them for a great garden.
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