Gardening Tips - Autumn

- Bulbs for Spring

The good news is that planting flower bulbs is fast, easy and nearly foolproof. One reason Autumn bulbs are so beloved of both beginner and master gardeners is that, with so few issues to consider, gardeners can put all their effort into the fun part of gardening.

Bulb Planting Tips:

  • Bulbs should be planted as soon as the ground is cool.
  • Read the label and try to keep the label together with the bulbs until planting. Without the label, you can't tell the one bulb from another.
  • You can plant bulbs just about anywhere in your garden - so long as the soil drains well. Bulbs also like sun.
  • Prepare the planting bed by digging the soil so it's loose and workable.
  • Plant the pointy end up.
  • Plant big bulbs about 20cm deep and small bulbs about 12cm deep.
  • No fertiliser is necessary for the first year's bloom as bulbs are natural storehouses of food. Thereafter, spread an organic fertiliser such as compost or well-rotted cow manure, or a slow release bulb food on top of the soil.
  • If you do fertilise, never mix the fertiliser in the planting hole as it can burn the roots.
  • Wait for Spring and a show of colour.

Gardening tips

- General tasks

After a glorious summer your thoughts need to be turning to the onset of autumn and what that will mean for your lawn, plants and flowers. As the weather turns colder and wetter (for winter rainfall regions) and the days begin to get shorter, your garden will change and need different care given to it to keep it looking good and ready for spring.

Our tips on preparing your garden and your bonsai for the coming months:

  • Feed your garden appropriately for autumn.
  • Prepare your garden for increased wildlife.
  • Gather fallen leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps and shredded prunings and layer them in a compost bin. Turn periodically with a fork to allow air to circulate, feed the organisms and to decompose the organic matter quickly.
  • Start to water down the feeding of your bonsai and terminate feeding completely in April & May. Trimming of your bonsai should be very light until April when that can stop as well. Make sure that by May all spent flowers and dead fruits are removed.

Use the time of being indoors in front of a cosy fire efficiently by reading some books. Recommended reads on bonsai are 'Kuns in die kleine' by Pieter Loubser, 'Bonsai Masterclass' by Craig Coussins, 'Bonsai Styles of the World' by Charles S. Ceronio, 'Bonsai Success in Southern Africa' by Carl Morrow and Keith Kirsten and 'Growing Bonsai in South Africa' by Doug Hall.

Autumn gardening tips

- Fertilising

As the seasons change and the air becomes crisp and cool, we tend to move towards habits of hibernation; more time indoors, warm clothes, hot drinks, fires, and our gardens are forgotten. But this is the time to get a head start for Spring by planting the last plants for the season it gets too cold.

Most plants, except those that are susceptible to frost and / or are flowering in autumn, can be planted. With the peak of heat behind us, the promise of good rains ahead and still-warm soil, deep and immediate root growth will occur in the newly planted plants.

Be sure to also feed your existing garden, your lawn, pot plants and new plants with a good fertilization program over the next 2 months, focusing specifically on root growth eg: (2:3:4). This will ensure that your plants are strong, are not susceptible to root rot and are ready in time for rebirth in Spring.


- Hedges & Topiary

March is the perfect time to give your growing or established hedge or topiary feature that one last trim before winter. Cut back no more than one third of the woody branches at a time. If it is a shrub that needs its height, leave the growing tip or leader at the top. If a hedge or topiary needs shaping, leave the top alone until it has reached the desired height.

After the shrub has been pruned, sprinkle Bounceback onto the soil at the base of the hedge to lessen the shock of the pruning and to give it a good start or the growing season. If necessary, spray the whole hedge or topiary to prevent thrips or scale. Finish off by watering deeply and add fresh mulch to keep the soil moist and warm.

In Spring time (for a perfect shape) prune the hedge on two sides by cutting the branches back to the shoots that face outward to allow lots of new growth and density.

Hedges & topiary

- Irrigation

As the the season changes from summer to autumn, the mornings and early evenings start to become a little more crisp and chilly. This should be the indication that your irrigation computer settings should change for the appropriate weather conditions.

Adjust to water during late morning

  • Frost - If the plants are being watered during the evening, or early hours of the morning, the water in the soil could freeze during the evening, and the root systems of the plants will be affected by ice during the night and the leaves of the plants by frost in the early morning.

  • Absorption - Watering later during the day allows the water to soak into the soil without becoming frozen, reaching the roots of the plants effectively. The plants are then able to absorb the water and accompanying nutrients, and any extra water not absorbed by the roots is evaporated during the warmer parts of the day, to prevent ice and frost.

Decrease the frequency of watering

  • Evaporation - Whether located in a winter rainfall area or summer rainfall area, the frequency of watering should be adjusted and decreased during autumn. The amount of evaporation of water from the soil decreases during cooler day temperatures and therefore the volume of water available in the soil increases. The best way to cut back on volumes and prevent any stress to a landscape is do so gradually.

  • Dormancy - As the temperatures become cooler, the plants focus less on generating new growth and their attention goes to preparing for winter dormancy. Therefore less water is required as dormancy phase approaches.

  • Shady areas - As the seasons change the arc of the sun also changes by up to 15 degrees, so this means that plants that were not in shade during summer, could potentially be in the shade during autumn. Change the settings for frequency to accommodate these new shady areas, as they will not require as much water as less evaporation is occuring.


- Increase wildlife

Top 10 tips for you and your kids to do during autumn to prepare for the winter and spring season. These tips will help you to create a safe space for the wildlife and insects to survive the winter in your garden.

  • Delay on cutting back of summer growth in hedges. This protects late nesting birds and encourages insects like ladybirds.
  • Leave some grass at the foot of hedges and shrubs to prevent frost damage to plant stems and roots over winter. It also creates wintering space for insects.
  • When tidying up in the garden, leave a few seed heads for birds to feed on.
  • Protect your herbaceous perennials from slugs and snails using barriers or natural controls.
  • Plan and create next year's containers of plants to attract nectar-loving insects, thus giving the plants a chance to establish before winter.
  • Add insect boxes and twig bundles to create homes where solitary bees and other beneficial bugs can survive the cold months.
  • Try to find a suitable spot to install a bat box. They will help control flying pests.
  • Leave some dead wood in your garden or create a log-pile to attract beneficial insects such as earwigs, which feed on dead plants and other insects such as aphids.
  • Put a birdbath, an old dish or even an upturned dustbin lid in your garden and keep it filled and clean - birds need access to clean water.
  • Make or purchase a seed stick / ball to feed garden birds. These snacks can give birds the protection and strength they need during winter.

Wildlife in Autumn

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