GARDENS may begin to doze in autumn, but gardeners are awake to the benefits of cooler weather on their plants.
Like spring, autumn is the most pleasant time to be out and about in the garden, as well as keeping warm and fit.
As well as raking up those pesky leaves (considerate gardeners will shelve leaf blowers) there are three main tasks to be carried out in the garden in autumn.
IF you take to the secateurs in the cooler weather, you give your plant the best opportunity to flower and fruit when it awakens in spring.
You also remove dead and diseased branches and encourage a shapely plant.
A rule of thumb is to cut about a third of the plant in autumn. This will stimulate new growth and encourage a bushier plant to grow later in the year.
Always use sharp secateurs, or tools when pruning, to avoid tearing, or bruising the plant when cutting.
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It may seem counter-intuitive to feed lawns in autumn, especially for varieties such as buffalo that lay dormant in winter.
But while the cold nights retard the growth of grass, the roots continue to grow, so it's a good time for repair while the soil is warm.
First aerate your lawn. You can do this by wearing "aerating" shoes (or those with spikes) and walking across the lawn several times (a good way to keep fit).
Or you can stab a garden fork into the lawn at even spaces, hence loosening the ground.
Make sure you penetrate the earth more than 3cm.
Your lawn is then ready for slow release lawn food for stronger roots and thicker grass.
While you can do this at any time of the year, autumn is ideal because the soil is still warm and in many parts of Australia, there is relatively good moisture retention following summer rains.
This is important because raking mulch over dry soil doesn't work, because it acts as a barrier to rain.
There are several types of mulch and some local councils may sell mulch, made from cuttings and other materials from green bins.
Also try straw, sugar cane and pine bark.
All those autumn leaves would be ideal for mulch.
Rake them up, shred and place in garden beds.