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compost bin

The seasons have turned: It’s well and truly autumn and, with or without rain, cooler nights mean more soil moisture. The ground is still warm however, making April the best month to re-sow lawns. It’s the start of the planting season for trees and shrubs, while seedlings of lettuce and other greens are less likely to be fried to a crisp now things are cooler.

Compost fodder is abundant for soil building. Pile it into heaps, or lay directly onto beds to keep weeds away and rot down over winter.

Left: Autumn is season of mists and mellow fruitfulness- and rotting. A great time to build compost heaps.

Leaves: Mow over them - the mix of grass clippings with chopped leaves is great compost fodder or mulch. Or rake them onto beds under trees or shrubs (avoid burying soft-stemmed, rot-prone shrubs like lavenders); compost them in separate heaps or black plastic bags for super-fine leaf mould, which takes up to two years but is great in home-made potting mix.

Weeds:  Caught before they seed, fresh young weeds can be hoed or pulled and left on the soil surface as a light mulch, or added to the compost heap. Any weeds with seeds and/or fleshy roots should be kept away from the compost, unless you’re a super-hot compost baker. Instead, put them into heavy-duty plastic bags or cover with water in barrels, adding them to the compost once they form unrecognizable sludge.

Prunings: Clippings can be used directly as mulch around shrubs and trees. Perennials like cannas can be grown specially to harvest for compost fodder. Larger prunings can be chopped with secateurs or shears, or put through a shredder, to make weed-free mulch.

 Autumn jobs:

  • Lawns: Now is the time to rejuvenate lawns, as new seed will sprout well before the soil gets too cold. Fork over tired areas to aerate, rake on compost for top dressing. Look for drought-resistant types (e.g. tall fescue).
  • Plant shrubs and evergreen or subtropical trees like citrus, feijoas, natives, shelter belts. Split clumps of perennials like alstroemeria.
  • Garlic and strawberries: Both can be planted over the next couple of months (get them in early for early crops.) Fork in a 5cm layer of good compost before planting. Pine needles make a good mulch for strawberries.
  • Keep planting brassicas/ leeks/winter greens/green manure crops/broad beans. Snow peas and Chinese greens like bok choy are more cold tolerant, so grow better over winter, than their relatives the fat-podded peas or European cabbages.
  • Mulch: Check the soil is wet at a spade’s depth before mulching. Even heavy rains can take a while to sink into parched ground.
  • Green crops: A handful of seed can turn into a great layer of mulch- grow your own soil! Find out more at the Green Gardener workshops or on this website.

Plant: Brassicas, silver beet, lettuce and other salad greens, red onions, fennel, beetroot, strawberries.

Sow: Coriander, rocket, calendula, alyssum, miner’s lettuce, peas, broad beans, peas, green crops (direct); lettuce, spinach, silver beet, peas (in trays). 



The Council Green Gardener, Hannah Zwartz, offers sustainable and waterwise gardening advice to local residents, community groups and schools.

Community visits and workshops are free. Get together five friends or neighbours and invite the Green Gardener round.

Contact Hannah through the Council Service Desk 296 4700 or at greengardener@kapiticoast.govt.nz


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