What to do in the garden now
Autumn is a special time of year for many gardeners. Allotments are brimming with fruit and veg and the soil in your garden will still be warm enough to plant spring bulbs. It’s a beautiful season, with the trees changing colour. Sometimes it may seem pointless raking, when the wind blows even more leaves onto the lawn, but just think of all the lovely leafmould you can make! It’s also time to start preparing for early frosts.
Iris reticulata is an early flowering iris, bearing pale blue to deep violet blooms with central yellow splashes down the middle of each petal, from late winter to early spring. It’s perfect for growing at the front of a sunny border, and can also be grown in pots. For best results grow in well-drained soil in full sun. Plant the rhizomes 5-10cm apart at twice their own depth. To propagate, divide bulbs from mid-summer to early autumn.
Ready, steady, grow
With food prices constantly rising, growing your own fresh veg is an undeniably appealing option. For bumper crops in the coming year, right now is the time to start and here’s what to plant.
Broad beans Sow your beans in a sunny spot, 5cm deep in double rows. Your beans will germinate in a week or two and will happily survive an average winter.
Spring cabbage Ideally sown in August, it’s worth a punt and sowing a row or two in September.
Winter onions You can plant hardy varieties up until the end of October. Plant in a sunny spot and keep your onion patch weed free.
Ready to pick
Squash and pumpkins are colouring up beautifully now. You’ll know they’re ready to harvest when you knock them and they sound hollow – also the plants start dying back naturally. Cut fruits with about 10cm of stalk intact and leave in a greenhouse or sunny window for two weeks to harden the skins.
Don’t forget to lift gladioli and take up dahlias; store bulbs and tubers in a frost-free location where they won’t be attacked by mice and other unwanted visitors. Dahlia tubers are costly to buy, so it’s worth taking the ti me to protect them. The first severe frost will blacken the foliage, and that is your cue to cut the tops to about 15cm above soil level and carefully dig up the tubers. Rinse all the soil off the tubers, then bring them inside and stand them upside down for a few weeks to drain any remaining water from the hollow stems. When dry, lay the tubers in deep trays or boxes and cover them with a layer of dry compost.
Create a cut flower patch
Creating your own cut flower patch couldn’t be simpler. Prepare the area by removing any weeds and add a mulch of garden compost to the soil surface.
You can start by growing hardy annuals ready for spring next year. If you didn’t sow biennials such as sweet williams and wallflowers in the summer, you can buy young plants now in garden centres.
Over the coming months, in October and November, plant extra spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils, tulips and alliums. Also plant primulas.
What to do in the garden now
- Repair worn out lawn patches.
- Remove dead plant material from ponds to keep the water fresh.
- Trim hedges to get them ready for next spring’s growth.
- Plant perennials now so they can establish their roots before winter.
- Remove diseased leaves from roses.
- Keep watering autumn pots.
- Cut back lavender.
- Deadhead dahlias.
- Tidy up evergreen ferns by removing old fronds to improve the winter display.
It’s a wrap
To store apples over winter, carefully inspect them and set aside any that are bruised or damaged. Wrap each sound apple in newspaper and arrange in a box or basket. Store in a frost-free garage, shed or basement. Check regularly for spoilage, removing any rotten apples before they spoil the rest.