We’re now well into autumn and the temperatures are starting to drop, the leaves are falling, and the gardening season is really slowing down in terms of plants out in the garden. We do have a few tomatoes, some aubergines and lots of chillies still growing in the greenhouse. There have been a couple of light frosts but nothing to worry those plants growing under cover.
As the plants die back and you begin to clear the beds it’s important to think about preparing the garden beds for winter. One of the worst things you can do is to rip out old plants, dig the garden and leave the soil bare without any protection. Not only will the soil oxidise but it will lose of topsoil caused by erosion both from the wind and the rain and also lose fertility through the leaching of nutrients due to the rain, so it’s important to protect the soil and this can be done in a way that will build fertility.
My favourite method of protecting the soil is through the use of green manures, there are some such as winter rye and mustard that can still be sown in November, these can then be cut back in early spring to return the nutrients to the soil. If cover crops aren’t an option then spread thick layers of mulch such as wood, leaves, or the grass clippings from the final cut of the season. Laying on a thick layer now will ensure that the soil has a protective blanket and will be in a good state to plant into in spring. We always keep a deep layer of mulch on our garden beds throughout the year and it creates a hive for garden life.
There are things that can still be planted to overwinter such as Garlic. Garlic can be planted anytime during autumn and winter as long as the ground is not waterlogged or frozen. We grow a lot of garlic, we harvest about 60kg this year, so that should see us through the year nicely. We use a unique technique of growing our garlic use sheet mulch, you can see the method over on our YouTube channel, My Family Garden.
There’s also still time to plant overwintering onion sets, broad beans and peas. We sowed our overwintering onions from seed in September and plated them out as young plants in October. The traditional time to sow onions from seed is on boxing day but I like to sow mine in November so they can get established before it gets too cold. There’s still lots to do, the seasons may change but the workload rarely does.