In the patch | Autumn leaves make great compost

Wow what a cracker of a day we had last Saturday (June 30) in the Crookwell Community Garden!

A cold and frosty start was followed by a perfect autumn day, with beautiful clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine.

Now that Covid-19 restrictions are starting to ease, we were able to take advantage of the glorious weather and organise a working bee in the afternoon.

We were also delighted to be joined by Upper Lachlan Shire Council General Manager Colleen Worthy who pitched in and got her hands baptised in the rich Crookwell soil.

First order of the working bee was raking up autumn leaves and stockpiling them for making compost. Deciduous trees really are fantastic. They give you cool shade in summer, brilliant autumn colour and then a fabulous resource for making the garden grow.

And let's not forget the fun to be had by kids of all ages in chasing through swirling drifts of leaves at this time of year too!

We also got stuck into weeding and digging over some of the garden beds, plus giving everything that needed a tidy up a bit of a trim.

Then it was time to plant a few more winter veggies. It's getting a bit late for this, but the cauliflower and broccoli we planted are cultivars specially bred for winter conditions and should yield well.

To give them the best chance possible, we have put white netting over the beds, which should serve two important purposes: it will provide a degree of protection from the worst of the winter cold and will help to deter the pesky possums and other local wildlife who consider the Community Garden to be their personal larder.

As we head into winter, this is also a good time of year to be planning for the future and working on any infrastructure projects you have in mind.

Now that the frosts are here, the weeds should be less rampant, the grass won't need mowing so often and hopefully there will breathing space to do some thinking and reviewing.

A highlight of the working bee was the yacon harvest.

What's a yacon?

It's a root vegetable originating from the Andes Mountains of South America. Technically the yacon is a perennial daisy with a tuberous root system, and the ungainly botanical name Smallanthus sonchifolius.

It grows rather like a Dahlia, and in Crookwell you need to plant the yacon out in November after the frosts are over. It will grow to a height of around 1.5 metres, with large, ornamental, softly furry leaves and in a good season lots of attractive little yellow flowers.

In autumn the frosts burn off the foliage and this is a sign that the tubers are ready to harvest. Crisp, juicy and sweet, they can be used raw, although some people find them a little bland on their own.

The secret is to mix them through a salad with some slightly more piquant ingredients to liven things up.

Yacon can also be cooked in many ways, for example you can put them in a stir fry or add them to soups. They are also great roasted along with other veggies such as beets, potatoes and pumpkins.