Autumn Soil Care
This season is all about soil rejuvenation and revitalisation after the stresses of a long hot summer. As temperatures start to fall and days get shorter, soil temperature too starts to fall. Autumn is the perfect time for planting as plants don’t come under stress. In early autumn improve soil for planting by following these steps:
- Weed thoroughly as weeds compete with plants for water and nutrients.
- Dig the soil over to at least a spade’s depth to help aerate the soil, improving air and water penetration. Work in compost or aged manure.
- Use a no-dig method (as an alternative to digging) by adding manure, homemade or bought bagged compost such as Seasol Super Compost and mulch to the soil surface and letting soil organisms do the work. Garden soil is full of organisms such as worms, microbes, bacteria and fungi. These critters make nutrients available to plants and bind soil particles together to improve its structure, making it lose and fluffy. The population size and activity of these organisms depends on the existing structure of the soil.
- If you want an easy to use no-dig option, give the soil a good dose of Seasol Liquid Compost.
- If the soil is not absorbing water (that is, it is hydrophobic), apply a soil wetter such as Seasol Super Soil Wetter and Conditioner to help water soak deep into soil where it is available to plant roots. Be sure to wash it off the plant’s foliage if it’s applied to planted areas.
Apply mulch to the soil after planting or top up existing garden beds. Organic mulches protect soil from heat and heavy rain and also can add nutrients as they break down. Mulch keeps soil and roots cool or warm depending on climatic conditions. It also can help to prevent water evaporation, retain soil moisture and deter weed germination.
Winter soil care
For many parts of southern and inland Australia winter soil care is all about protecting soil from cold and frost. Winter is the planting time for bare-rooted plants such as fruit trees and shrubs, roses and herbaceous perennials. Follow our easy ‘Autumn soil care’ guide to give you all the tips to prepare soils for planting.
If the soil is being left uncultivated over winter, here’s how to make it more productive in spring and summer:
- Grow a cover crop including legumes such as peas, beans, mustard plants or subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum) to dig in as a soil-improving green manure. Special packaged green manure seeds are available from hardware and garden centres and online suppliers.
- Allow these crops to grow so their roots break up the soil and their leaves protect it from compaction and erosion.
- Turn the legumes, mustard and other species into the soil before flowering, where they will break down, further improving soil fertility by adding nutrients and carbon. After a few weeks, turn the soil over again to aid decomposition, much like turning the compost heap.
- Avoid working soil if it is overly wet.
Winter in northern Australia is known as the dry season. This is the time to carry out garden jobs that have been put off due to the preceding wet season. It is also often the most productive period for growing vegetables and flowers. As temperatures remain high, plants and soil must be protected from the heat. Here are tips to help soil through the dry season:
- Ensure there is always moisture in the soil. Check soil moisture by putting your finger into the soil. It’s a good indication of whether additional watering is needed. If it feels dry, it needs watering. If it feels moist, then it’s fine.
- If soil is dry and water repellent apply a soil wetter such as Seasol Super Soil Wetter & Conditioner. This helps to ensure water goes down into the soil to the roots, where it’s needed.
- Winter or the dry season is also a time to improve the soil in preparation for spring or the upcoming wet season. Apply well-aged compost and manure to rejuvenate your soil before planting. If you don’t have your own compost, purchase it in bags from hardware and garden centres. Look out for Seasol Super Compost or Seasol Garden Mix. Cover the soil surface with mulch.