Many think that autumn is the time to step back from the garden, with a focus on tidying and ‘putting the garden to bed’. But there’s still plenty to keep you growing organically through the crisp autumn days, regardless of how big or small your growing space is. Here are our top five tasks:
- Keep planting. There are many different things that can be sown in the autumn before the ground gets too hard. Bulbs such as daffodils and tulips can go in ready for a beautiful display come the springtime, and if you plant into pots they’re a great way to bring colour onto a balcony or yard. Broad beans and sweet peas can be sown to get an early start next year, and autumn is the time to plant bare-rooted trees, roses and shrubs. There are many more organic options these days, and all this will leave you with the promise of flowers and food to look forward to next year!
- Look after your wildlife. It’s really important to leave habitats and food for the wildlife you share your garden with. Helping the wildlife now will pay dividends in the summer, when they help control pests in your garden in return. Seed heads provide valuable food for birds (and look beautiful too), a simple log pile or collection of branches and prunings will provide shelter for frogs and hedgehogs, and if you’re looking for something more adventurous, there are some fantastic bug ‘hotels’ you can make with things you’ll find lying around in the garden.
- Start a leafmould pile. As the autumn leaves start to fall, this is a great opportunity to make leafmould. Simply gather the fallen leaves into a pile, or put in a bin bag with holes in and leave to break down. It can take a year or two but the result is definitely worth the wait - you’ll be treated to crumbly, dark leafmould to use for seed sowing, saving you money in seed compost and providing a great use for this free natural resource. Just don’t collect leaves from a wood or forest - they are essential for this precious ecosystem.
- Cover any bare soil. As your veg beds begin to empty, try to cover the soil so it’s not left bare over the winter. Bare soil will leach all those valuable nutrients you’ve put in through the year. There are lots of different ways to cover the soil. The best option is to sow some green manure, to feed your soil ready for the springtime. You’ll find information on green manures at www.gardenorganic.org.uk. A simple layer of mulch like grass clippings or well-rotted manure, covered by cardboard will suppress the weeds and rot down to improve the soil. Or if all else fails, a layer of cardboard weighed down will help.
- Save seeds. Whilst most of us were struggling to get hold of seed this spring, seed savers were smugly getting ahead with their sowing. Saving seed from your home grown flowers and veg is much easier than you might think. Peas, beans and tomatoes are all great places to start with veg, and in the flower bed sunflowers, calendular and poppies couldn’t be easier. Home-saved seed is a sustainable way to keep your garden stocked with new plants, they’re great to share with neighbours, and you will also be saving seed that you know is going to grow well in the unique conditions of your own garden. Just don’t forget to leave some for the birds too!
If that’s not enough to keep you busy, autumn is a great time to do that project you’ve always been thinking of. Digging a pond, building a compost heap or remodelling your garden are all perfect to take on now, before the ground becomes too hard to work with and whilst the garden is reasonably dormant. Before starting, just take care to check you won’t be disturbing any wildlife habitats. If you are embarking on a new project, why not see how much you can create from unused or recycled material? This is the best way to create a sustainable haven for all to enjoy.
Above all, don’t hibernate indoors this autumn. The low sun, vibrant colours and glinting frost make this time of year one of the most beautiful in your garden.