The harsh summer heat is over and the balmy nights have given way to a chill. Here is how to prepare your garden in time for winter.
Those precious tomato plants should still be fruiting. There may be a few yellowed, streaky leaves hanging about. Remove them before they cause cross-infection — but don’t add them to the compost. Some gardeners may be wondering if their tomatoes will ripen. The leaves can be thinned a little, but tomatoes ripen by the air temperature, not by exposure to the sun, which can damage the delicate fruit.
Everything is wild and fecund in the vegetable garden and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with harvesting. There is always at least one zucchini that has been missed and with delusions of grandeur has grown to the size of a small zeppelin! Yes, you can stuff them, but why not leave it to grow and develop and then harvest the seeds for next year’s crop? If you have grown only one cultivar of squash and your pumpkins are all C. maxima or C. Moschata, like Australian Butter, Queensland Blue, Triamble, Butternut or Bohemian, the seed should come true to type next season.
Plant out ginger, broadbeans, basil and shallots. Sow basil seeds directly into the soil — the depth of planting should be no more than three times the diameter of the seed. Begin harvesting within six weeks of planting. Plant ginger roots that show signs of new growth. Keep the soil well composted with plenty of moisture. Harvest the roots once the plant has died down.
Cool and temperate
The apples and pears are ripening fast. If you haven’t done so already, prune back the long spring growth. It’s most likely growing straight up and will not produce fruiting spurs (see picture at left). Prune down to two buds from the existing spurs that will be holding the fruit. This will help with the development of new fruiting spurs.
Compost and soil
Cool and temperate
Moisture levels in the soil and compost can vary hugely this month. Check that your soil is still moist so you can get the best out of the last of the season. Even if there has been rain, the soil can still be dry under the mulch.
Climbing beans will have just about finished. As legumes, they will have developed nodules of nitrogen on their roots that will feed future crops of Asian cabbages, spinach and cabbage. When tidying them up, remove only the above-ground parts of your beans. Simply snip them off at the base of the stem and leave the nitrogen-rich roots in the soil.
Before planting next season’s crop, prepare your soil by adding lots of fresh compost and manure, then dig it into a minimum depth of 200mm using a shovel or garden fork, add water and let it rest for two weeks. For a nitrogen fix, grow a green crop such as beans or peas, which you can chop back into the soil after harvesting.