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Autumn Gardening Jobs

Autumn is planting time. In WA, we are finally coming out of our harsh, dry summers and heading outdoors into the garden to prune, plant and mulch. Gardeners love this time of year since it lets them don their hats and gloves, pick up the spade and enjoy the tranquility of the garden without the blistering sun and sweltering heat. If your garden needs some TLC, get outdoors and get gardening.

Autumn is all about getting outside and enjoying the fresh air. This is the time to cut back those plants that have gotten out of shape over summer, remove the plants that didn’t survive the heat and plant some new ones to give the garden a lift. It’s also the time to take a good hard look at the garden and come up with some fresh ideas and also wonderful weather for visiting the nursery to see what is available. Here are some jobs around the garden to get you started:

• Cut down herbaceous perennials as they finish flowering. These will probably be showing new fresh growth at the base and as soon as last year’s spindles are removed, these will take off beautifully. Divide them if necessary.
• At the beginning of autumn, deadhead roses and apply fertiliser to encourage a final flush of flowers. In mid-autumn, tidy them up and spray for mildew and black spot.
• Cut back pelargonium and geraniums. They will love you for it. Use the best cuttings to make new plants.
• Grey-leafed plants such as lavender and wormwood may have dead sections left over from summer. Trim these out and very lightly prune the outside (not to bare wood). Spread some lime around the base of each plant.
• Remove spent summer-flowering annuals. Clean up garden beds and apply manure ready for the next planting.
• Repot plants that have outgrown their pots over summer. Use a premium potting mix and apply a seaweed solution as well. Transfer plants to a slightly larger pot or remove some of the root ball, add fresh potting mix and return it to the old pot.
• Cut back dahlias now ready to lift later.
• Apply a fertiliser to hibiscus now.
• Rake up fallen leaves and add them to the compost bin. To help them break down quicker, run over them with the lawn mower first.
• Cut back raspberry canes later in autumn.
• Tidy, weed and feed the strawberries.
• Use an easy to apply hose-on “weed and feed” product on the lawn. Use a garden fork to spike compacted areas and apply a granulated wetting agent to ensure autumn rains sink in.
• Trim the old flowers from natives such as bottlebrushes and grevillea as they finish flowering. Wear long sleeves to protect your arms if you have sensitive skin.
• Remove dead leaves from cymbidium orchids so that they are ready to be taken inside when their flower spikes mature.
• Lift and divide lilium bulbs.
• After deciduous fruit trees lose their leaves, give them a spray with lime sulphur.
• Cut back on watering the indoor plants. Too much water is more damaging to these than too little.
• Consider installing a rain water tank to capture the winter rain. It’s great for the garden in spring.
• In mid-autumn, lift and store gladiolus corms and dahlia tubers. Dust with fungicide first.
• Prepare rose beds for planting bare-rooted roses. Dig in plenty of compost and organic matter.
• Harvest ripe pumpkins and leave them out in the sun to harden their skins. Keep about 5 cm of the stalk still attached so that the pumpkin stays sealed.
• Adjust the reticulation as more rain starts and the days cool down.
• Use lawn seed to repair any bare spots that have appeared in the lawn.
• Basil is starting to finish now. Use the last of it in pesto and oils or dry ready for winter use.
• Mulch citrus trees and don’t allow them to dry out to help them hold their crop. Fertilise with a citrus fertiliser.
• Fertilise native plants with blood and bone or a native-specific fertiliser.
• Feed camellias and azaleas with a fertiliser that suits acid-loving plants.
• Prune hedges now that the weather has cooled. Lightly fertilise as well.
• Lightly fertilise dahlias and chrysanthemums.
• Harvest horseradish tubers now before they go into dormancy.
• Apply gypsum to heavy clay soils to help break it up.

March is the perfect time to feed just about everything in the garden. Some plants have specific needs such as camellias and azaleas, natives, roses and citrus but most other plants can be fed with an all-purpose granular fertiliser. Remember to water any fertiliser in well so that the nutrients get to the plants roots.

Autumn really is a wonderful time of the year for the garden but because there is still some warmth and also some moisture in the air, fungal diseases can become a bit of an issue. Here are some other problems to look out for:

• Check lawns for fungal diseases such as dollar spot. Spray with fungicide if necessary.
• Spray the lawn in May for bindii to stop the prickles in spring.
• Lawn grubs and adult lawn beetles begin to emerge in winter. Begin to control them before their damage appears in the lawn.
• Watch out for winter grass in late autumn. It’s easy to deal with by using a wintergrass killer.
• Autumn is caterpillar season. These pests will eat the vegies before you get the chance to. Low toxic treatments based on naturally occurring bacteria are the best option and are easy to apply.
• Watch for rust on frangipanis. This appears as yellow bumps on the underside of the leaves. Remove and bin badly affected leaves or spray with a suitable fungicide – rose sprays are good for this job.
• Keep an eye out for fruit fly on ripening fruit. Hanging a yellow sticky trap will shop when these pests appear and allow them to be dealt with before they become an issue.
• As the rains begin, protect plants from snails and slugs using a pet-friendly snail bait. Remember not to pile them up but instead spread about 8 pellets every square metre.
• Keep an eye on hibiscus. They can be affected by all sorts of pests at the moment, especially hibiscus flower beetle.
• Check citrus plants for leaf miner and spray fortnightly with pest oil if necessary.
• Beans can be attacked by mite at the beginning of autumn when the weather is still hot and dry.
• The tell-tale sign of leafcutter bees on roses will probably be evident now. Don’t worry about these harmless little insects as they are great pollinators in the garden. They aren’t causing any problems for the roses and are using the pieces they cut from the leaves to line their nest.
• Check indoor plants for mealy bug and scale. If there are problems, download our “Caring for Indoor Plants” fact sheet to find out what to do.
• Indoor plants enjoy a little time outside under cover late in autumn when the weather cools. It also gets them away from heaters and fires in the home.
• Scale may be a problem on perennials and citrus. Pest oil will solve this.
• Deal with weeds now before they get out of control. Our “Coping with Weeds” fact sheet will help.

Autumn is planting time. This is the time to plant trees, shrubs, hedges, ground covers and winter flowering annuals.
• Plant potatoes now. Check out our “Growing Potatoes” fact sheet to find out how.
• Plant spring flowering bulbs around April. Plant pansy and viola seedlings amongst them to provide winter colour.
• Plant sweet peas on St Patrick’s Day but definitely before Anzac Day. It’s a wonderful tradition that provides masses of fragrance and colour in the garden.
• Plant new citrus trees. Try some of the dwarf varieties which are brilliant in pots. Check out our “Growing Citrus Trees” fact sheet.
• Plant a spring border. Nurseries will have pansies, salvia, dianthus, primula, cineraria, lobelia and viola.
• Prepare the vegie patch and start planting.
• Plant azaleas, camellias, citrus, deciduous trees and shrubs.
• Autumn is the best time of the year to grow coriander and dill as well as leafy greens such as English spinach and mustards. These plants will enjoy the cooler temperature and won’t bolt to seed so quickly.
• Plant garlic in early autumn. It won’t be ready to harvest until around October.
• Plant peanuts in the drier area of the tropics.
• Plant virus free strawberry runners in late autumn.
• Consider a stunning cyclamen to brighten a cool, well lit spot indoors.
• Autumn is the best season for laying new turf. It is able to settle in over the cooler months and with the winter rain ready for the heat and foot traffic of summer.

Over the winter months, the nurseries will be full of bare-rooted roses and deciduous trees but it can be a daunting task to choose which one is perfect for your own garden when there are no flowers or leaves to see. Autumn is the time to visit the nurseries to make these decisions. This is the time to see the roses with their final flush of flowers and the autumn foliage trees showing off their beautiful leaves. Make a list now of your favourites but wait until winter to buy and plant them.