BY CAMILIA DU PLOOY
Autumn is one of the most beautiful seasons to look forward to with its golden, brown and red blanket of dried leaves falling from trees. Crisp mornings enjoying a cup of coffee while taking in the scent of fresh air when strolling through your garden and noticing that the colour green is slowly turning into the colour of hibernation.
“It is important to keep in mind that your gardening should not stop over the autumn and winter months, in fact autumn is the time to prepare the garden for winter, as well as getting it ready for the following spring” says Craig Hutchison, CEO of Engel & Völkers Southern Africa. “A garden, being a relatively inexpensive item to 'fix', does make a big difference when putting your property on the market as first impressions always lasts, and a beautiful garden immediately makes new homeowners feel like they can live here” Craig added.
Your beautiful garden plants will most probably get destroyed by the frost in winter (depending on your location) if precautions aren't taken to protect them. The only way to prevent this from happening is by going out to the nearest nursery and purchasing some hessian and some stakes. By wrapping your tender trees stems you can protect them as this serves to act like a scarf protecting your throat from catching a cold. Cover all the tropical plants, especially large leaf plants such as the giant strelitsia and the tree fern for example. This, together with some mulch around the roots, will keep these precious plants nice and snug through all the frosty autumn and winter nights. Mulch is the shredding of leaves, sticks, grass and bark, any material placed over soil in the garden to help retain moisture and stop soil from eroding. Mulch also enriches the existing soil and should be layered 5cm to 10cm thick.
There's no need to have to prepare your eyes for a sore sight over these colder months, as you can still enjoy a colourful pallet. One should plant your winter seedlings already in the autumn for example: snap dragons, pansies, violas, alyssum, primulas, delphiniums, dianthus, foxgloves and petunias. If you have a vegetable garden, autumn is the time to plant winter vegetables such as onions, cabbage, broccoli, peas and broad beans for those homemade soups. March is a good month to plant woody and twiggy plants like hardy trees, shrubs and roses, as there is still enough warm days ahead for them to settle before the cold sets in. Remember to water in the mornings to allow more time for water to filter through to the roots and get nice and warm with the day sunlight. This is also a good time to start moving some of the shrubs and trees that need a new location.
While working on your winter garden don't forget to think about spring. Many plants can already be planted in the autumn and winter months to sprout when spring arrives. Some bulbs can go into the ground by March, though many will need to wait until the end of autumn. Plant your spring flowering bulbs at the end of April, and since tulips may want to show face quicker, wait until May to plant them.
A very important note to insure the well-being of your precious garden is to do all pruning in the beginning of autumn and if any of these plants or trees are diseased in anyway, cut the diseased sections off and dump or burn these cuttings, as they can cause problems and possibly infect the rest of your garden.
Autumn is also a very good time to start a compost pile or to add to the existing one. There will be more than enough dead leaves, flowers, plants, grass cuttings and kitchen waste to use. This will help your garden significantly next season. Remember not to throw weeds or diseased plants into the compost bin.