Your garden in Autumn
At this time of year you’ll no doubt see umpteen gardening articles on putting your garden to bed as winter knocks on the door, encouraging gardeners to close the curtains on it all whilst devouring next years’ seed catalogue in front of the fire. As the temperatures drop away and we’re being quoted Keats at every turn, let’s spin things on their head and think of this time as the start of next years’ gardening season. The late and very great plantsman and gardener Christopher Lloyd would also say whenever he was asked about his favourite time of year in the garden would reply “Now!”. Don’t be a hedgehog, crawl into a ball and forget about everything until spring, let’s get out there.
It’s great to still be out in the garden in October, the leaves of the Acers and other shrubs are beginning to turn so it’s a great time to tidy the mixed flower borders. Give hedges and bushes their last trim so they don’t need to be done when the birds are beginning to build their nests in the spring but do a little research to avoid the frost nipping those freshly cut stems.
What should I be doing in my garden?
Clearing and tidying fallen leaves will keep you warmed up on colder days but what better way is there on a crisp, sunny Autumn day? Give your herbaceous perennials some attention, cutting them back to just above ground level paying attention to the condition of the plant at the same time. Is it congested and does it need dividing? Is it rotten? Perhaps moving it to a slightly drier area will help. All of these observations and more will be letting you know how happy and healthy your plants are and will help you plan ahead for the next growing season.
With a little planting effort now, you will speed the timing of that first new growth by as much as a month. During the autumn months, after soil temperature drops below 60°F, the bulbs of spring flowering Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths, Siberian Dwarf Irises, Anemone, and Crocus should be planted. Select healthy, disease free bulbs and add bone meal or bulb fertiliser into the planting hole as you prepare the soil.
Most spring flowering bulbs should be in the ground by the early part of this month, with the exception of Tulips which may be planted up until early November. Gladiolas, Dahlias and other tender bulbs should be dug before the ground freezes, and stored in a cool, dark area. Dahlia and Begonia tubers should be stored in a box of slightly moist peat moss. Gladiola corms can be stored in a paper bag without additional packing. There is still time to set out winter Pansies, flowering Kale, flowering Cabbage, and autumn ‘mums’, keep a little colour in the garden for as long as possible.
Protecting your plants in the cold weather
Watch your thermometer on colder nights. A windless, cold, clear night usually means a killing frost….you can keep your Chrysanthemums and Asters blooming for quite a while longer if you take the time to provide a little frost protection for them. A small, simple frame covered with fleece or an old bed sheet placed over your plants on frosty nights, can add a month or more of garden blooms. (Don’t forget to remove the cover as soon as the danger has passed!) Geraniums, Begonias, Fuchsias, and other tender plants should be brought indoors or moved to a cold frame before the first frost. Mulching fall planted perennials will keep the soil warmer longer, allowing root growth to continue, however, the plants do need time to harden off for winter. Spread a thin layer of mulch after planting, and then add a thicker layer once the ground is hard. Collect and save seeds of wildflowers to sow next spring. Autumn is a good time to move established conifers and evergreen shrubs. Dig them up with the largest root ball you can manage. Prepare the new planting site well and keep them well watered until they have established. Protect sensitive varieties from drying winds by surrounding with a netting wind-break. Finish sowing new lawns while the soil conditions are still warm enough for grass seed to germinate, turf can still be laid in autumn if the soil is not too wet.
Harvesting fruits and vegetables is the best part of growing them. As is often the case, you may have produced much more of certain type than your family can consume. Dig and divide congested clumps of rhubarb. Cut back raspberry canes that have grown too long, to prevent damage caused by winter winds. Some root crops, such as carrots, onions, and parsnips can be left in the ground in and dug up as needed. Apply enough mulch to keep the ground from freezing and the crop will be kept fresh. If blight has been a problem over the last few months on both potatoes and tomatoes, really the only thing to do is dig up all the effected plants and burn them so not to spread the infection or leaving it in the soil for next year.
Inspirational reading for gardeners
Planning and moving your garden forward is also part of your winter to do list, if you need some inspiration, here are some recent articles that may help. As always, get in touch if need some help.
If you would like to discuss your garden, please get in touch. 01483 275920