Cooler, shorter days are upon us but wonderful autumn colour is also prevailing at the moment and should be enjoyed and celebrated! There is a lot to be getting on with in the garden as we prepare for the winter ahead, and also for next spring, as far off as it may seem.
Prepare for the autumn and winter ahead…
Plant, plant, plant
Autumn is an exciting time to be in the garden. Temperatures may be dropping, and the days getting shorter, but autumn is historically the best planting time of the year. The dry ‘stressful’ summer has passed, but temperatures haven’t plummeted yet. This transition phase from summer to winter, gives rise to warm, moist soil, and perfect growing conditions; as plants ‘settle in’ and establish a robust root system before going dormant for winter.
Water, water, water!
New plantings need to be watered in well, and then supplied with a continuous source of moisture. Without a well-established root system to find the moisture they need, these plants are more reliant on you to provide it, particularly if autumn doesn’t turn out to be as wet as we perhaps all expect it to be.
Get lost in a sea of winter bedding
The range and choice of winter bedding keeps extending as we move further into autumn, making for much more exciting shopping decisions at your local garden centre. Bursts of pansy, viola and cyclamen colour can really brighten a waning garden that’s struggling after a colourful summer.
Clean, paint and fix
Make the most of the remaining dry weather by painting, cleaning and fixing any garden structures in need of attention. Greenhouses, fences, sheds and patios should all be checked and ‘spruced up’ as required. A deep clean will also ensure any pests and disease are prevented from camping out over the winter!
Once sparkling clean, don’t let the undercover areas become wasted space – as well as using them as a home for tender plants during the winter; be productive and keep growing! A great time for germination, sow salad seed where your summer planting once was, for supplies of cut and come again salad, rocket and parsley throughout the winter.
Top tip: Watch for slugs! We highly recommend Neudorff slug & snail killer – organic pellets completely safe around children and animals (so safe in fact, that the Neudorff company MD ate a handful to prove it!)
Cut back perennials that have died down
Some of the later flowerers may still be working hard to put on a final display of colour but for most the time has passed. Cut stems close to the crown or dormant base of the plant, but above any new growth. It’s better to delay pruning of more tender plants until next spring when any risk of frost has passed.
We have lots of apples coming through on our trees now – hopefully you’ve found the same. Harvesting apples and pears should be high on the agenda around now. Look out for windfalls that have fallen from the tree, (this will help indicate when the fruits are ready), and do a taste and texture test to make sure you’re harvesting at the right time. Soft fruits like autumn raspberries will also be ready for picking, and don’t forget to take advantage of your local hedgerows – blackberry picking is always a firm favourite! Then get making and baking, from sauces to salads, pies to crumbles, there’s so many ways to make use of all that delicious fruit. Have too much? Just pop it in the freezer for another day!
Prepare for next spring and beyond…
Select spring bulbs
You may have already planted spring flowering bulbs like daffodil, hyacinth, and crocus, with plans for others like tulips also in the pipeline, but what about onion and garlic bulbs? Plant in a sunny, well drained spot in shallow drills, with their necks just protruding from the soil. With regular weeding and watering they should be ready to harvest when the foliage starts turning yellow.
Sow green manure
Green manure suppresses weeds, adds nutrients to the soil, improves soil structure and helps control pests. After you’ve dug out the last of your potatoes and onions, sow green manure on the veg patch. Crops like mustard will grow up very high very quickly. Simply chop it back and let the worms do the work. A dark cover over the top will trap out the light, and prevent anything else from growing. Well-prepared soil will then greet you in spring.
Rake up the ingredients for leafmould
Sometimes it may seem a pointless exercise, especially when the wind is blowing, but you can make lovely leaf mould from raked leaves. A great soil improver, lawn conditioner, and mulch, simply pack moist leaves into a suitable container, and leave them to rot. You’ll be glad you did this time next year…or the year after!
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