Autumn a great season for planting and pruning
AUTUMN is a great time to get in the garden and plant.
It is no longer hot but the soil is still warm and we get the occasional shower. This allows the plant to establish a root system before the dry and cold winter slows everything down.
Autumn is also a great time for transplanting, especially if you want to change the look of your garden.
Dig out the plant you want to move, take away all the dry roots and cut the ends with your secateurs. Then dig a big enough hole, condition the soil, plant it and water it in well.
Now is the time to divide perennials and bulbs. Dig out the perennials, divide at the root or the rootball and plant them in again. Always trim the end of the roots as they are probably damaged.
As many plants flower in summer, autumn is also a great time to prune – best after flowering or fruiting.
You can cut bushes and shrubs about a quarter of their size, which of course can vary. You should have a good look at your bush. When it seems thin or weak you can cut more to create a solid base.
When you have a grown bush, you just cut the tips to keep it compact.
With flowering shrubs I usually cut all the flowers to avoid the shrub going into seed production, which is very important for roses. I normally remove all the old flowers and the dead bits and trim them back quite hard.
For flowering shrubs it is also recommended to always remove old shoots. One reason is to avoid borers and second to constantly rejuvenate the bush. Of course, I don’t cut banksias, grevilleas or callistemon flowers, because the birds love them and it is a food source for winter.
I also recommend cutting hedges to keep them compact and bushy from the bottom to the top.
When you cut hedges always look out for borers. When you see a dead branch, use a saw, cut it and have a look to see if there is a hole in the middle. If there is, you have a borer, which is going to kill the bush. You will have to cut deeper into the bush until you can’t see that hole any more. But be careful not to cut too much in autumn as holes won’t fill with new growth over the winter season and the hedge will look bare and you may not have privacy any more.
As many trees lose their leaves it is also recommended to rake them again and again and compost them or use them as mulch.
Some leaves, such as frangipani, are usually full of bugs and fungus at the end of the season. I wouldn’t use them as mulch, which would spread any diseases the leaves may have.
Mulching is very beneficial for your garden. You can use fallen leaves, grass clippings, bales of hay, pine or – my favourite – tea tree mulch.
Cover the soil with some cardboard or weed mat and throw a layer of 5-10cm deep mulch on it.
Mulch will not only suppress weeds, it also regulates the soil temperature. It reduces soil compaction and erosion. It will keep the soil moist and improve soil quality, fertility and texture. And it will supply organic matter for the coming spring season.
I also like to give the garden some nutrients in autumn.
So have fun preparing your garden.
Dirk is available for advice on residential gardens as well as acreages. You can contact him by phoning 0429 020 215 or emailing Dirkuhagl@gmail.com
Citrus trees have a shallow root system which can dry out quickly.
A 5cm layer of mulch like sugarcane or lucerne helps protect roots from direct baking summer heat as well as conserving moisture.
To help promote a bumper citrus harvest it’s important to keep feeding. Each week, mix two capfuls of liquid plant food into a nine-litre watering can and water over the root zone. Yates’ own Thrive citrus food contains nitrogen to support a healthy flush of leaves in autumn as well as phosphorus and potassium to nourish the fruit.
Give citrus trees a deep drink at least once a week as citrus need continual good soil moisture levels. Uneven watering and water stress can result in citrus fruit splitting and drop. Potted citrus will require more frequent watering than in-ground citrus.
Look out for suckers. This is growth that can appear below the graft – the bump in the trunk – and is the root stock trying to take over.
Suckers are usually easy to spot as the leaves growing on suckers are often different to the main tree and the stems can be viciously spiky, so be careful!
Regularly cut off suckers as close to the trunk as possible with sharp secateurs. If seen early enough, suckers can easily be rubbed or snapped off the trunk while they are still thin.