autumn clean up

The Autumn Clean Up

Just as April is a month for planting, it is also a month for a good autumn clean up, clearing away garden debris to put it to good use in the future, making your garden ready for winter and keeping it free of overwintering pests.

Falling leaves

Part of your autumn clean up should be to leave the falling autumn leaves in shrub beds as mulch but take care not to spread the layers of dead leaves too thickly and do not let them heap up around the stems of plants, as this can cause rot. Sweep them up from pathways, pavements and drains, and place them on the compost heap or shred them to make leaf mould in black plastic bags. Shredding the leaves will accelerate the process of breaking them down into a rich humus that can be used when more mulching is needed again in summer.

Get on top of weeds

Annual and perennial weeds can harbour pests and scatter their seeds far and wide, only to lie dormant while waiting for favourable conditions to germinate. Remember that mulching or sowing a cover crop in dormant beds can go a long way in curbing unwanted plants. If the annual grass Poa annua is a common weed in your lawn every winter, use a pre-emergence weed killer to curb it.

Do not harbour pests

Clear away fallen leaves and rotten fruit under fruit trees as part of your autumn clean up. This will prevent rose beetles and fruit flies from breeding and overwintering there.

  • Dig around the base of the trees and lay down a fresh layer of organic mulch. While there, fix the walls of the earth dams that should be around their main stems. This helps with better water management as you simply have to fill up the ‘wells’ when watering.
  • Turn your compost heap over and check for larvae and pupae of fruit fly and rose beetle. In the winter-rainfall areas it is a good idea to cover your compost heap to prevent it from becoming too soggy.
  • Look around for anything that can provide warm and dry overwintering places for pests such as red spider mites, like stacked plant pots or clutter around the garden.
  • Remove any diseased growth from big shrubs and trees and burn it (if allowed).

Protect your garden

Start thinking of the devastation that frost causes by moving frost-sensitive plants in pots to a protected place and buying frost guard material to protect sensitive plants in the garden.

Clear the pond

Decaying foliage like autumn leaves sink to the bottom of ponds and rot there, compromising the quality of the water and the environment for creatures living there. Clear them all out and cut off dead and overgrown vegetation around the pond’s edges.

Lekka to do

While working in and around you water, toss some waterblommetjie (Aponogeton distachyos) bulbs into your pond. They are available from bulb suppliers and nurseries, will grow well in water between 10 – 60cm deep and will anchor themselves in the sediment at the bottom of the pond. The flowers drifting in late winter to spring on the water surface will make you happy, and you can cook a good mutton stew with them as the star ingredient!

The Gardener