Summer crops are still being harvested right now but many will be ending their life cycle now or very soon. I love this time of year when I can clean up my garden, reuse the green waste and plant anew for winter and spring.
Seeds to sow now: Cauliflower, Kale, Broccoli, Cabbage, Khol Rabi, Lettuce, Radish, Silverbeet, Spring Onions, Turnips, Swedes, Carrots, Beetroot
Plant from punnets now: Cauliflower, Kale, Broccoli, Cabbage, Khol Rabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Silverbeet, Spinach
End of Summer Garden Waste
If you had a full summer garden you may feel daunted at how much green waste there is once you start cutting down spent plants. Don’t worry though, if you let them break down in a compost pile or let them break down directly in your garden, these plants will soon become part of the soil.
My personal method in the garden is a deep mulching one and I like to chop down my spent plants in smaller pieces and lay them right down where they were planted, then cover them with a mulch like hay or straw and compost. The microorganisms under the soil will then get to work for me and break down the plants, returning them and a truckload of nutrients back into the soil. I plant my new seedlings right into the compost I laid on top.
Letting it all break down in a compost heap is also a great way to reuse green waste. Alternate your green waste with some brown carbon such as dead leaves and you’ll soon see the pile break down and lower.
*Note: Don’t compost diseased leaves that have been infected with things like powdery mildew or blight. A home compost doesn’t usually get hot enough to kill off the fungal spores.
Bridge the Gaps
Planting quick growing crops like radish, turnips, lettuces, beetroot and Chinese greens means you can have something to harvest while you wait for your bigger autumn and winter crops to grow. Beetroot and turnips are delicious when young and small, they’re especially tender and sweet then, plus their leaves can be harvested as well as the root.
Sow a Green Manure Crop
If you have any garden beds that were used for the summer but are having a break over the winter, sow a green manure cover crop over the top.
This means sowing seeds that will create a cover over your soil so it’s not left bare in winter. This keeps the micro-organisms and bacteria under your soil fed and happy. It also suppresses weed growth and helps keep the nutrients in your soil.
Some green manure seeds also provide nitrogen as some are ‘nitrogen fixers’. Seeds such as blue lupin, Lucerne and broad beans are nitrogen-fixing which means they take up nitrogen from the soil and ‘fix’ it in these small nodules at the end of their roots. Come spring, you can chop down this cover crop and let it break down back into the soil. The nitrogen from these little nodules will then be released back into the soil in a form that other plants can then take up and absorb.
Over winter some crops
Some plants that we sometimes think of as annuals are actually perennials in warmer countries, such as eggplants, chillis and capsicum. If you can, you can move these plants inside a glasshouse, or a makeshift greenhouse and overwinter them. Bring them out again next spring and they should start producing faster than those sown that season.
Try your hand at seed saving so you can save money next time.
For cucurbit seed saving, let them grow huge and let their skin harden. Once mature, you can scoop the seeds out from the middle and wash them well to remove the pulp. Once collected, let the seeds dry out completely on a tray before storing in a dry, cool and dark place.
Beans seeds can be collected by letting the pods dry completely on the vine until they rattle when you shake them.