We are now moving into the last month of that gorgeous season, autumn. Although there is still a lot to do, somehow this month in the garden feels a little slower, a more relaxed pace. Our main focus is all about tidying, feeding, preparing and planting.
My edible garden is still providing me with autumn raspberries, passionfruit in the glasshouse and apples from the trees. I am able to put together some divine autumn creations. Spicy apple cake and apple and raspberry crumble have been easy to make for guests staying the long weekends. My go-to breakfast of seed and nut granola with passionfruit, raspberries and coconut yoghurt still provide the flavours of summer .
In this issue:
- Mulch; learn about the magic of mulch
- Lemons; a fruit hard to live without. Look after them.
- Tidy up; the summer crops et al.
The magic of mulch
Spreading mulch over the gardens is a powerful, not-so-secret weapon for many reasons. Here are five quick wins on why to mulch.
- Mulch helps to keep the soil temperature warmer, meaning your edible plants will grow for longer.
- Covering the soil suppresses weeds. At the best of times, weeding isn’t really the most-loved garden task, let alone in the depths of winter.
- Mulch plays a huge part in helping create healthy scrumptious soil by adding valuable organic matter as it breaks down.
- It helps keep moisture in the ground, but it also protects the soil from heavy rain washing all the nutrients away.
- It makes the garden look tidy.
I love using lucerne for mulching my garden. It’s self-composting, helps hold the moisture in the ground, increases soil nitrogen, provides the soil with lovely minerals and feeds the worms. It is also heavier than its counterpart pea straw, which lessens the chance of it blowing away in the strong nor-west winds we get here. Deciduous fallen leaves and pea straw are other easy mulch options.
Whatever you use, I recommend keeping a little extra aside for use during the year, as it’s brilliant to add to your compost.
Citrus in a frost-prone area
I am quite obsessed with citrus, particularly lemons. Their use in the kitchen is so varied, that having lemons in my garden is vital to me.
If you get frosts where you live, now is a good time to make sure your citrus trees are protected and covered. Younger trees are particularly vulnerable to frost.
Before I cover the lemon tree for winter, I give it a good water, spray it with seaweed solution and also add citrus fertiliser around the outer base. I also regularly spray with seaweed during the winter months.
I cover my lemon tree about now, and leave it covered for the coming months. If it’s a lovely sunny day, I take the cover off but it will still get ample light through the frost cloth. I peg the cloth around the tree and still ensure there is good air circulation below the cloth.
Covering it for the winter means one less thing to remember each day and a real safeguard for those nights when there are surprise frosts.
Tidy up, feed and prepare
May is the time to tidy up any of your lingering summer and early autumn plants, such as the tomato vines, cucumbers and courgettes. Once you have taken them out, it’s a good time to lay compost on the remaining beds. Put down a layer of old rotted-down horse manure mixed with straw, and then place mulch over the top. It’s a good time to make a note of what went well over the summer, to review in spring.
There is still time to sow a green manure crop, especially if you live in a more temperate climate. Check my April journal for more detail about green manure crops.
Until next month