The swallows and martins are gathering on the wires, the nights are drawing in, and mornings are darkening. There is a general air of Autumn, of mists and mellow fruitfulness. So what to do? It’s time to put the garden to bed.
Lift your maincrop potatoes, and store them. Dig the parts of the vegetable garden not planted with Winter crops, and leave them rough-dug for the Winter frosts to break down the soil ready for an early seedbed in Spring.
Prepare a fine seedbed for planting garlic now – split the bulb into individual cloves and plant them just under the surface six inches apart, with a foot between rows. You can also sow broad beans now for an early crop next year.
Shallots should traditionally be planted on the shortest day, to be harvested on the longest day. Again, plant them six inches apart, with a foot between rows.
In the flower garden, tidy perennials, but don’t cut them back, just clear the dead leaves – the stems and seed heads provide shelter for both the plants themselves and for insects, and the seeds provide food for birds.
Prune and train climbing and rambler roses, but not bush roses, although these may need a trim later to prevent the wind rocking them in Winter. Tidy up any fallen leaves, to help control diseases such as black spot or mildew.
Plant your Spring bulbs now, but leave tulips until late October. Also plant out wallflowers, split and replant polyanthus for Spring flowering, and plant Winter pansies for a show through the Winter. For indoors, plant prepared bulbs of hyacinth and paper white narcissi for Christmas.
Shrubs can be moved at this time of year, as the soil should be warm enough for them to start re-establishing themselves in their new situation.
Make sure you dig a big enough hole, with the bottom broken up and some muck or garden compost and some blood, fish and bone meal put in. Then, having lifted your shrub with a good rootball (so as not to disturb the roots too much), and thus knowing how big the new planting hole needs to be, plant your shrub and backfill around it, firming the soil down on the surface.
Referring to my previous rant, our hedgehog is still about, and we think he may possibly also have a mate, as Ella, our spaniel, “retrieved” a small one some nights ago – she was quite pleased to drop it at my feet, as I guess the spines weren’t very pleasant in her mouth! However, despite this sign of a growing hedgehog presence, they are still falling short on slug control!
And unfortunately, the voles that ate our leek and onion seedlings are also thriving. Jan planted a row of Cosmos for cutting flowers, but the voles have used the plants for lumberjack practice, felling the stems hither and yon, so not many flowers, and definitely no vole control!
What a note to end on!
October 2012 (Autumn issue)