After an unpredictable summer, it’s a pleasure to get out in the garden on a warm but not hot day, and to have Mother Nature providing the watering system. The work and planning you do now will provide the groundwork for the coming year.

Perennial plants are the gardener’s friend as they provide lovely displays for years on end with little work required to keep them at their best. There are two kinds, those that lose their leaves every year and those that are evergreen.

The main thing they have in common is that they keep multiplying and getting bigger. They need attention at this time of the year and by dividing them you get more plants for either your garden or to give to other happy gardeners. Who can resist a freebie?

By digging and dividing the plants you keep them at manageable sizes and ensure that they will keep flowering. Prune all the visible foliage to just above ground level and make sure that the soil is moist before digging them out.

Plan to dig them out either early in the morning or late in the day so they don’t dry out; this reduces stress on the plant. Cut them into sections (or some can be pulled apart by hand) before replanting them in the garden. If you’re not sure where they are to go, put them in pots to plant at a later date or to give away.

Your roses need to be dead-headed, which will encourage the plants to flower more freely.  Shrubs such as lavender and buddleia need to be trimmed and shaped, and new trees and shrubs are best planted during the coming months when there is less likelihood of stress to the plants.

Bulbs for your spring display should be planted over the coming months, with a staggered planting to ensure a continuous flowering period. Check your local nursery to see what seedlings are available and choose your colour scheme for the coming spring.

In the vegetable garden

Now you need to dig the vegetable garden over prior to planting the new season’s crops, but there is a problem. What on earth do you do with those green tomatoes left on the plants that never seem to ripen?

One answer is to place them in a paper bag or cardboard box and store in a warm, dark spot. The trapped ethylene gas they give off will turn them red. To speed up the process, include a ripening banana. Just don’t forget to check on them every couple of days or you may get a nasty surprise instead of the lovely red tomatoes you expect.

This season is a vegetable planting bonanza with seeds for beetroot, carrots, parsnips, radishes, turnips and swede due to go in and seedlings for broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choi/pak choi,

cabbage, cauliflower, celery, coriander, fennel, herbs (all except basil), kale, lettuce, peas, rocket, silverbeet, spinach, spring onions and strawberries. Garlic bulbs may also be planted now – just plant them in a drier spot so they don’t get them too wet and go mouldy.

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