Spring crops start in autumn: what better time to embrace gardening?

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If you’ve been needing a prod to get your hands dirty, it turns out that autumn is a great time to embrace gardening.

With plenty of crops from which to choose and a heady supply of ready compost in the form of leaf-fall, we get the low-down on what to plant and how from one of the city’s most passionate green thumbs.

According to Fiona Veikkanen, Executive Director of the Canberra Environment Centre, gardening is “such a great way to tune in to natural cycles, embracing the beauty and opportunities of autumn in Canberra”.

Her top tip is: “With all the deciduous trees in Canberra, one of the best things you can do in the garden is collect leaves and compost them by mixing them at a 50:50 ratio with kitchen scraps in a compost bin. By next spring you could have nutrient rich compost ready to plant in to and bring take your garden to the next level.”

She suggest that the best way to learn more about how to compost is come along to one of their upcoming free online composting workshops!

She also warns of the need to be aware of frosts which will most likely start in autumn.

“This means that planting anything frost-tender is just not going to make the cut.”

Fiona Veikkanen of the Canberra Environment Centre says autumn leaves are fantastic for compost.

Other activities may include removing spent summer veggies, planting peas and broad beans, brassicas and lettuce, and sowing “Green Manure”—a mix of nitrogen fixing legumes which you can later incorporate into the soil and which will boost your growing game next spring.

Fiona lists her favourite autumnal veggies as broad beans and garlic.

“People are often divided over broad beans, but I love everything about them. They fix nitrogen from the air into the soil and can be used as a green manure if you cut and incorporated them into the soil. I like to use some as green manure, but let others reach maturity—letting the pollinators enjoy the flowers before they form beans which are somewhat labour intensive to de-pod, but a very delicious addition to soups, stews and dips come spring. Broad beans can handle the frost, and they can withstand semi-shade. They just make me happy,” she says.

“Garlic is another very rewarding autumn veg, but they take ages to grow so expect them to be ready by Christmas. If you are looking for garlic cloves to sow, my top tip is to purchase from a local nursery or the Farmers Markets, as sometimes garlic at supermarkets is sprayed to prevent sprouting. Plant in soil that doesn’t get too boggy, as you don’t want garlic rotting/succumbing to fungal conditions. An excellent crop if you have possum/snail and slug issues, as they will very hopefully leave your garlic alone.”

Fiona’s final tip is don’t be disheartened if first attempts don’t reap big bounty, embrace the learning journey and enjoy spending time outdoors in autumn!

Find further invaluable advice on autumn gardening on the Canberra Organic Grower’s Society website at cogs.asn.au

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