Autumn – Permaculture Sustainable Food Gardening in Subtropical Australia
by Ewa Bekiesch, Permaculture designer, educator, sustainable living consultant, and healthy food advocate.
March, April, and May are autumn months. The days are getting shorter and the summer heat is slowly going back. Very slowly, I would say. The ‘summer bugs’ are getting less, which is a bonus! We can start to sow and plant the winter crop. Yes! The time of radishes, brassicas and other subtropical winter veggies has finally arrived. Yummy! While March is still very hot and humid, the following two months will bring some relief, and the garden work becomes a pure pleasure. I promise!
Listening to nature and observing what is happening in the food forest is a very important part of my natural gardening approach. It also helps me to plan better and enjoy my garden even more. Planning is always a good idea! The garden beds should be ready by now for the new winter residents (seeds, plants) to go in. If not, don’t worry, there is still time to do so. Most of the winter vegetables are very demanding so enriching your soil after the summer harvest and before the next planting is crucial if you are looking for a good and healthy crop. Who doesn’t want that?
My way of enriching the soil and preparing the garden bed for a new planting season is simply digging shallow trenches by moving the topsoil to the side, adding some aged manure, and covering it back with soil. The next step is to top it with some compost and mulch on top. I made a very good experience with this method.
Autumn is a great time to make your mulch! There is lots of biomass throughout the food forest after summer. Many of the perennial plants can and should be trimmed and turned into a very nutritious mulch which can be used straight away or stored for later. Note that if you want to store it as a mulch, it needs to be dried before you pile it up. Otherwise, you will turn it into compost, which is not bad at all if this is what you are aiming for. Generally, the best trimming time is always after fruiting and definitely before flowering. I will give some examples of the plants I trim and turn into mulch in my monthly articles and as we progress during that time.
Everything that does not end up as mulch, goes into the worm farm or the compost production area in my three-bin composting system. There is never too much compost!
Shade and Sun
The days are getting shorter and the sun is changing its position. This may affect your future crop so consider carefully where you sow and plant your winter veggies. Especially when you grow food like me, near the fruit trees. Some plants are totally happy with half-shaded places, and others get upset if they don’t get the sun throughout the entire day. Plan accordingly.
Protecting new growth
Even though some of the bugs are getting fewer, there are still enough of them to destroy the new growth. Protecting your seedlings is very important. There is nothing worse than coming into your garden and seeing that your little plants simply “disappeared”! I am using some food save nets thrown over the garden bed and secured with some rocks. Remove the net before the first blossoms for veggies like cucumbers to make sure they get pollinated on time.
Water is essential and plays a very important role in food production. Plants need water for transporting nutrients and minerals from the soil into the roots. Watering the soil around the plants is most efficient. If you are not sure whether your plants need water, a simple test may give you the answer. Stick your finger into the soil to check the moisture level.
Generally, autumn is a good time for planting new subtropical fruit trees, bushes, and vines unless they are tropical varieties. This is also the time when we can start growing the winter veggies. I will talk about it in my monthly articles. Join my newsletter if you don’t want to miss it.
Permaculture gardening is not only about what, how, and when to do it. Observing and planning plays also a very important role in the permaculture garden. Would you like to learn how to plan and grow an abundance of healthy food? Consider joining one of my workshops or enrolling in the online course. You can find it all here.
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