Crisp and fresh and cold nights. Fires and cake and sparkly dewy mornings. And pie! And dark green winter vegetables sprouting in the finally damp earth. Mushrooms. Fat, happy, bustling hens. Late night rain. I love autumn. And being out in its changeling days, gardening and wandering. Watching the sky, its blues and greys, its clouds and fleeting sunshine.
Dark grey, bright bright blue, red, gold, yellow and orange. And the crisp air! Autumn is an invigorating time to potter around the garden. So long as you’re ready for that mad sprint inside when the sky opens up.
I love the garden now, in this moment. That rain that has been building up, up, up for nearly four months (four months!) finally came and everything is happy. Our winter vegies are sprouting and the weeds are trying, the garlic has exploded from the ground with strong green spears aimed at the sky, and everything that was holding its breath and holding onto survival with determined roots has let out a sigh of relaxed relief. And mum has come back and pruned and mulched and whirled around the garden, patching the places where our ignorance and lack of experience was shining through.
Most of our winter vegies have been planted now, but I have been doing my garden research and therefore know that there are still some jobs to be done. So for any other amateur Adelaide Hills gardeners out there, this is what I have discovered for us…
We need to be getting our onion beds ready! Organic fertilizer and NOOOO weeds. Onions are a wee bit pathetic and not at all competitive. The weeds will win. And lots of lime- they hate acidic soil. So choose your beds and get them ready, you’ll be wanting to sow your onions in June-ish.
And strawberries! The amount of luck I have had with strawberries in the past is quite pitiful, so armed with some valuable information from the ever wise Peter Cundall I am ready to try again. Apparently disease and old plants are big problems in the world of strawberry cultivation, so choose certified, young plants. When you get them home, wash the roots and pull away any discoloured leaves. Strawberries like slightly acidic soil (so don’t plant them with the onions!) so pine needles make a good mulch. They don’t like competition so, again, make sure the bed is weed free. They also need well drained soil- plant them on ridges. Go forth and grow!…strawberries.
And if you think, well great… What am I going to do with a whole bunch of strawberries and onions all up in my kitchen? (If you are a crazy person who doesn’t like to eat strawberries by the handful and put onions into every possible thing. Onion tarts? Best ever.) Anyway, if you think that then I have an answer: strawberry and onion jam! Weird right? Ask Google, it’s totally a thing.
After you’ve got your crops prepared for a future larder full of interesting jams and chutneys, there is one more job to do. What happens when you grow a whole heap of vegies over the summer months? Why, they deplete the soil of nitrogen of course (you also get to eat a lot of vegies over the summer). So now is a good time to plant nitrogen fixers- I chose broad beans because I like to eat them and they grow madly. Plant them in unused beds, in between things, in their own bed… just anywhere really.
So – along with pruning and other such jobs which I still need help with because I have no idea where to begin- there are enough things to do to give you reason to spend some time in the fresh air of early autumn. And if you aren’t so keen on strawberries or onions, walnuts are in season. Trawl the neighbourhood for a mature tree, gather as many fallen nuts as you can and run away before somebody sees you. Or just make friends with somebody who has a walnut tree. Whatever works.
Get out and enjoy autumn.