Autumn is the best time to prepare and plant your winter veggie bed

Cool, crisp Autumn nights followed by warm sunny days make autumn the perfect time to establish your winter veggie patch.    

If space is at a premium in your patch, then you may need to sacrifice late producing summer vegetables.  Tomatoes can be pulled up, roots and all, and hung in a dry, airy place (in your shed is the perfect spot).  Green tomatoes on the vine can be used as they ripen .... by following this method instead of composting the vines, you are not losing out on fruit production, in fact, you are most likely extending your home grown harvest as they ripen slowly on the bush.     

Clear away any spent summer crops and weeds, and importantly in terms of  garden hygiene, ensure you dispose of or compost all fallen fruit or vegetables.  As you are clearing the bed make a mental note of those things which worked well for you over summer, and those that did not.  Most people have successes and failures in the garden, and most seasons differ to the last.  Keeping a note of varieties which fruited better then others will put you a step ahead next season.

Once summer crops and weeds have been removed dig through the soil, incorporating plenty of organic matter such as compost, well aged manures or blood and bone.   Seeds may be sown directly into the soil or established in jiffy pots and then planted out, or you can choose to get a head start and plant seedlings.  Many gardeners find that seedlings establish best when they are soaked for an hour or so in a half strength sea-weed solution such as Seasol.      

Whilst Autumn is fabulous for planting, it is often dry in terms of precipitation so hand watering or irrigated watering is definitely required during this period before the season breaks.  

Now is a great time to plant:  broccoli, cabbage, silver beet, kale, parsley, coriander, peas and beans, carrots, radish and artichoke, leaving garlic and rhubarb until later in the season.    

In terms of pest control, try spreading crushed egg shells or dried coffee grounds around newly planted seedlings to deter snails and slugs, and make simple earwig traps by scrunching up newspaper and placing it inside large tins popped on their side.  Earwigs are night feeders who will seek out dark places to hide as the sun rises.  Empty collected earwigs into your hen house ... the chooks will clean them up pretty quickly .... or pop them in the waste bin.