Seed saving

Save seed from beans and peas. Allow a few of your herb and companion flower plants to flower and set seed and you’ll have free seedlings already scattered about in your beds by next spring. Seed from coriander, dill, fennel and parsley can be saved for cooking as well as for re-stocking beds and containers.  Remove spent flower heads on calendula, marigold, zinnias, poppies etc. Dry flower heads and seed pods before storing seed sealed in paper bags or envelopes and storing in a dry room for next year (remember to label clearly).


WATCH POD TV: Seed Saving

Herb Garden care

Get your herb garden ready for winter - It’s a good time to sort through your herb plants and get them ready for the winter months so they will continue to be productive as well as being in good shape come the next growing season in spring. Basil will be on its last legs now – so harvest all you have and make pesto (see Fleur Sullivan’s recipe). Coriander and parsely like these cooler temperatures so where you can in frost-free gardens, keep sowing to ensure constant supply. Mint will pretty much die-back and disappear from all but the warmest gardens – don’t worry, it will re-grow come spring. Thyme, marjoram, sage and rosemary should all grow fine in the garden through winter. Just remove excess dead growth and ensure these aromatic plants won’t get water-logged.



Plant Protection

Thin out bed-sown seedlings such as carrots, spinach, lettuce and turnip as necessary. Its best to thin whilst seedlings are still small to avoid disturbing the soil around seedlings that you intend to allow to grow on.

 

Mound soil around the base of your leeks to keep them pale and sweet. Keep soil beneath the bottom leaf so it doesn’t get inside the stems and make cleaning them difficult. Another way of doing this is to lower toilet roll centres down onto the bottom of the stems before mounding up the soil.

Cut back all asparagus stems to within a hand’s length of the soil and remove without letting the seeds fall back onto the bed (if seeds are allowed to germinate they can end up competing with your existing crowns). Apply a rich mulching layer about a finger deep of compost, well-rotted manure and pea straw.

It can pay to sow most of your plants into trays or punnets and then plant out when seedlings have at least a couple of pairs of leaves. This should give them a better chance of standing up to any harsh weather and slug/snail attack.



Plant Food and Drink

If you planted brassicas – broccoli, Brussles sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, kale – celery or beetroot a month or so back then now is a good time to spread some extra well-rotted manure, compost or a light dusting of blood and bone meal around these hungry plants to give them a boost.

Beds that are cleared and prepared for future planting can also benefit from an application of lime which is a real benefit to many of the leaf crops – spinach, cabbage, spinach, kale, broccoli and silverbeet - you’ll be planting over the coming months.

 

Turn your compost over every few weeks to encourage decomposition. Place an insulating layer of old carpet, folded tarpaulin or empty compost bags on the top to help keep the temperature of your heap warm.

 

Feed citrus, fruit trees and bushes with a rich layer of compost, sheep pellets, well-rotted manure, dolomite, seaweed, straw – whatever you have to hand spread as a mulching layer around their roots.



Soil Care

Feed soil in beds with a scattering of blood and bone meal – about three handfuls for every square that is a stride by a stride, or square metre. You can also give soil a dusting in between rows of seedlings and maturing plants. Once you’ve applied the bone meal simply rake into the top layer of soil and cover with a layer of mulch. This slow-release fertilliser will sustain the growth of seedlings and maturing plants for up to 4 months.

Lay boards on beds if you need to gain access, this will spread your   load and stop soaked soils from being compacted.

In cooler areas keep soil warm for plantings over the next few months by laying some polythene sheeting, old carpet, unfolded cardboard boxes or empty compost bags (if beds are small). Anchor with a few boards, logs or bricks to stop sheets blowing away. This insulating layer will also help to prevent soil from becoming water-logged.

Keepany areas of empty soil warm for plantings over the next few months by laying some polythene sheeting, old carpet, unfolded cardboard boxes or empty compost bags (if beds are small). Anchor with a few boards, logs or bricks to stop sheets blowing away. This insulating layer will also help to prevent soil from becoming water-logged.

Livestock

Chickens will start to lay less as the days become shorter. Keep chicken enclosures from becoming muddy during wet weather with regular applications of fresh straw, woodchips or pine needles – raked up leaves and lawn trimmings can also be added. Put a shelter in your chicken enclosure – somewhere for the birds to gather during heavy rainfall. Check your coop to see there are no leaks. Chickens may start to molt as their plumage starts to re-fill for the colder months ahead.

Bees

Check your hives are weather proof. Put up wind breaks if necessary (not in flight path) and insulate hives where heavy frosts are a frequent winter event. Put in varroa strips if you haven’t already. Might be time to remove honey supers and close down the hive so that the reduced population has less space to fill and is better equipped at fending off pests. Wasps are ferocious in their desire for protein right now and they can be seen taking bees down at hive entries and dismembering them before flying off with their haul. Make a concerted effort to locate any nests and deal with them before new queens leave to mate and then hibernate until spring. Each queen that gets away now is another nest in your vicinity next spring.