We know you can’t go out and buy plants and garden products like you normally would at present, so we've put together our top five tasks to keep your garden healthy and ticking over at this time.
This includes creating your own compost, saving seeds for free plants, weeding, mulching and pruning.
1. Create your own compost
Compost is nature’s way of recycling. Made from waste garden material, compost is an essential ingredient for creating nutrient rich soil and therefore healthy plants. You can start your own compost without any garden supplies, with your organic kitchen and garden waste.
- To get started you will need a good structure or container to hold your compost. Build your own using things you have around the house, for example plastic bins or pallets, or you could create a compost heap.
- Choose a sunny position for your compost system and ensure it is easily accessible for adding ingredients and regular mixing.
- Prepare your compost in layers that are a blend of carbon and nitrogen. This means adding a mix of organic garden and kitchen waste materials. Leaves, sticks, twigs and newspaper are sources of carbon, and fruit and vegetable kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, egg shells, coffee grounds and tea leaves are sources of nitrogen.
- Layer materials evenly, and add a little water with each layer. Put a lid on your compost bin to enable it to decompose quickly and mix regularly. It is compost when it is dark brown and smells earthy - it takes six to eight weeks to fully mature.
Follow our Beginner's Guide to Composting here >
2. Seed saving
The beauty of mother nature is that you can save your own seeds and grow plants for free. Autumn and summer are generally the best times of year to save seeds as most plants flower in spring and summer and then set seed the following season.
Nearly all plants produce seeds, the trick to knowing how to save them is watching to see when they are ripe. A plant often indicates its seeds are ready to harvest by producing pods, seed heads, fluffy tufts or the berries turn brown or begin to shrivel and die. Harvesting unripe seed doesn’t work, and immature seeds never germinate.
- Pumpkins and melons: seeds need to be washed and set aside to dry for a week or so before storage.
- Lettuce, celery, parsnip, rocket, carrots, leeks, onions and radicchio: allow plants to set seed (tall stems of flowers will eventually appear), pick once the seed heads are brown and crisp sounding. Hang upside down in plastic bags for a week or so, rustle the remaining seeds out of the stems and store.
- Cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, chillies and capsicums: scoop out flesh and wash through a sieve. Lay the seeds on a kitchen towel and place somewhere warm and dry for a week or two before storing. Be careful with chilli seeds as they can sting, so avoid touching your eyes after touching the seeds. Once completely dry, cut the kitchen towel into small pieces and store seeds on the towel in an envelope.
- Popular and easy flowers to grow from seed are: sunflowers, marigolds, calendula, sweet peas, dianthus, foxgloves, hollyhocks, cosmos, cornflower, delphinium, alyssum, violas, pansies, wild flowers and poppies.
- Cut mature flower heads when they turn brown and rattle when touched and place upside down in a bag, to catch the ripe seeds as they drop out. Allow to hang somewhere dry and warm for a week or so.
- Store seed in envelopes in a cool, dry, dark place.
- Place the envelopes in tins or containers to keep insects and mice away.
- Always clearly label what the seeds are, so you know for when planting.
- Seeds stored in airtight and dry conditions should last at least 12 months.
Mulching protects your plants from extremes in temperatures, keeps roots moist, suppresses weed growth and creates a tidy look. If you don’t have any mulch on hand you can make your own using autumn leaf drop, grass clippings from the lawn, pine needles and straw you may already have.
Using autumn leaf drop as mulch also helps prevent slugs and snails - they don't like a sharp surface!
Spread mulch on your garden beds, or around your trees, just make sure to avoid leaving mulch touching the trunk/plant stem as this can cause rot.
Maintaining weeds is an important task to ensure that your lawn or garden stay healthy. If you don't rid your garden of weeds they can compete with your plants for nutrients and water. Weeding isn't always the favourite garden task, however it can be quite therapeutic and is one that the kids might like to join in on.
When mowing, don’t set the mower too low and ‘scalp’ the lawn, as this encourages weeds and stresses the grass.
We recommend to prune stone fruit trees in late summer after fruiting has finished, however it can be done in early-mid autumn if necessary. If you do prune in autumn protect cut wounds with a water based paint or pruning paint to seal the wound and prevent disease entering.
For frost tender plants, don't prune now as this will push soft new growth that will not have time to harden up before the winter frosts, leading to stunting growth and disease entering the plant.
Prune back summer flowering perennials and bulbs that have finished for the season.