WE are now just a week away from the official start of autumn, the early morning dews we are having give a freshness to the day, and the sound of cicadas show the seasons are moving.

■In the garden it is time to cut back, prune and weed after quite a bit of growth during the past month. The start of autumn is a great time to start making new plantings. Planting in autumn makes the most of the generally wetter and cooler weather over the coming seasons, which are great for establishing new tree and shrub plantings. This year with the regular rainfall during February planting can be done in many gardens now.

■Late summer is often one of the most rewarding times of the year for the vegetable gardener as the fruits of one's labour are ripe for the harvest. Tomatoes can be continued for a while longer, as can cucumbers and zuchinni. Maintain regular feeding, ie fortnightly with a fertiliser high in potash and combined with regular watering will ensure that you continue to produce a harvest.

■Late blight can bring an early end to tomatoes at this time of year, a most effective and easy to apply product is to sprinkle with Yates Tomato Dust. This will also control other pests and diseases on tomatoes, including control of caterpillars which also tend to present themselves at this point of the season pillaging both the plant and the fruit.


■Pansy seedling packs are now arriving into store to be available for planting as summer displays come to an end, these will flower during the winter months.

■Time to plant winter vegetables; even if you have a small garden there are some good reasons to plant some winter vegetables; firstly the freshness of the product and you control what is sprayed on them, secondly cost; the cost of vegetables, especially heads of broccoli and cauliflower, can skyrocket during the winter months.

■When growing brassicas. The areas of the vegetable garden, or plots where they are grown must be rotated from crop to crop to avoid club root and the spread of other soil diseases.

■Time to plant silverbeet, spinach, cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, spring onions and leeks.

■Make sowings direct into the soil of carrots, parsnips, swede, greenfeast and sugar snap peas.

■Make sowings of flower seeds in trays for planting out in late autumn for a winter display, good varieties to sow now include; cineraria, sweet pea, poppies, snapdragon polyanthus, primula and pansies.

■Time to plant spring flowering bulbs including; anemones, ranunculus, gladioli nanus, freesia's, daffodil, sparaxis, tritelia, ixia, grape hyacinth, iris reticulata, and hyacinth bulbs for winter and spring colour. These look great in pots or in the garden. Check out the range available in stores.

■Summer prune any excessive growth on stone and pip fruit to allow more sun light to ripen fruit.


■The main lawn sowing season of autumn is here so start working on preparing areas to sow seed, as thorough preparation is required for optimum success.

Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre