Autumn in the garden
An outdoor tidy-up to maintain your home's exterior and the health of your garden is a good idea at any time of year. Keep in mind that the peak fire season varies depending on where you live in Australia. Check with the Bureau of Meteorology to find out when the fire risk is highest in your area so you can be well prepared.
Garden waste from seasonal pruning should be chipped, taken to green waste drop-off centres or located safely away from the house. Follow our pointers for tidying up gutters and removing storm and fire hazards and ensure you are bushfire ready no matter what the season.
Leaves and composting
If you live in an area with deciduous trees, make the most of the fallen leaves by raking them up for some great garden mulch that's free. Even easier, just leave them on your lawn and mow straight over the top. This will chop up the leaves and mix them with grass clippings in the catcher ready to go straight on the garden. Mulching also helps keep the soil moist and reduce the need for watering.
Alternatively, use autumn's supply of dried leaves in your compost. A healthy compost mix needs quite a lot of carbon-rich organic material (about 75%) such as dried leaves or clippings to balance out food scraps. Autumn leaves are perfect for this. Place dried materials in layers and cover with some fresh organic material. Keep layering the materials and add some water without soaking everything. Don't forget to get some air into the compost to make managing compost more effective.
No compost bin? Autumn may be the time to get one going. Your garden will love you for it—you'll increase the quality of garden soil and soil drainage, which is particularly beneficial in heavy clay or light, sandy soils. You'll also cut down on organic waste going to landfill.
If you do have excess garden waste, look out for a garden recycling site in your area. Avoid sending any green material to landfill where it releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.
You may have a large collection of leaves and prunings, but burning them in the backyard is not a good option. In fact, in many parts of Australia it's illegal to do so. Burning leaves and other dried plant material leads to air pollution and is a health and fire hazard.
The smoke from burning leaves contains a number of toxic and irritating particles and gases. If the tiny particles are inhaled, they can lodge in the lungs and stay there for years, increasing the risk of infection and reducing lung capacity. For those who already suffer from asthma and other breathing disorders, leaf burning can be extremely hazardous.
Burning leaves, moist leaves in particular, also produces carbon monoxide, a gas that results from incomplete combustion (burning). Carbon monoxide is absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs and can cause serious health problems, especially for babies, smokers, the elderly and those with heart and lung disease. Think about other uses for your leaves and prunings, such as composting and mulching.
Planting for a seasonal harvest
Autumn is a good time for planting. If you want to grow your own vegetables, start planting now for harvesting over the coming seasons. Search online to identify which climatic zone you live in and for ideas on what to plant and when. Then over the coming months you'll be able to harvest your own crop straight from the garden. Think fresh, home-grown flavours and the food transport kilometres you'll save.