In the flower garden
Think about planting a rose hedge: an email dropped in my inbox the other day from David Austin roses packed with inspiring pictures of rose hedges that will flower from June to October. What a good idea, especially for people who don’t want the fuss of a traditional border or if you have a spare patch of ground you’re not sure how to fill.
Use them for separating areas of the garden. This is the time to put in your order for bare rooted roses to plant over winter. I was particularly taken with the soft pink myrrh scented Queen of Sweden, which is perfect for me, as it’s happy on poor soil but there are plenty of shrub roses to choose from in a range of colours from soft pinks and creamy yellows to the glorious rich apricot Lady of Shalott.
Order autumn bedding plants from Saga Garden Centre. Choose between winter pansies, wallflowers or a mixture. £8.99 for 55 plants or £12.99 for 165, with free P&P on all orders. Buy now.
Cut down perennials such as rock roses, viola cornuta, achillea and lychnis so that they have plenty of time to put on fresh new growth before the frosts, enabling them to over winter successfully. Less hardy perennials, such as penstemons and silver leaved mediterraneans, can be left with their foliage intact as this will help protect them against cold.
On walls: tie in climbers so that they aren’t damaged by wind.
Save seeds to sow next year (remembering to label the bags) and remove seed heads of any nuisance plants, but in general you want to leave as many seedheads as you can for wildlife.
Plant clematis. They like their roots in cool soil and humus rich, free draining soil. Ideally, dig a large hole, add some bonemeal and grit for drainage if needed positioning them a good two feet from any walls. Find out more about growing clematis.
Keep cutting and deadheading dahlias. Here’s how to tell the difference between a new bud and an old flowerhead - the rounded head at the bottom is a flower bud, while the large pointed head is a spend flower that needs to be deadheaded.
Get the soil ready for sowing grass seed. Overly compacted soil makes it hard for seeds to take hold so once you have removed any weeds, rake the soil or, if the area is large enough you may want to dig or rotavate it before raking and then leveling, removing any small stones as you go.
Read more autumn lawn care tips.
Lift up border plants that may be flopping over the lawn and see whether the grass beneath has withered. If so you may want to tidy the foliage before winter comes, allowing sunlight and rain to re-green the lawn edges. This is a good time, also, to tidy the edge of the flower bed and remove any weeds that have been flourishing, out of your sight.
On the vegetable plot
Keep weeding as seeds are still being set.
Start collecting leaves of plants like courgette and rhubarb and composting before they turn to mush.
Keep harvesting regularly so that you don’t get caught out by frosts and lose your produce.
Pull leaves away from tomato trusses allowing all the sunlight to reach ripening fruits.
Buy a copy of Growing Self-Sufficiency, a new book by veg expert Sally Nex. Sally really knows her stuff and she what she writes is all based upon experience. Whether you’re new to growing your own or have been doing so for years I think you won’t be disappointed. Sally has packed the book with tips and recommendations and as far as I’m concerned this is the perfect reading material for when the weather turns too grim to garden. A nice idea of Sally’s: grow your own tea garden with chamomile (use the German Matricaria recutita or the common Chamaemelum nobile), lemon balm, rosemary, sage, pot marigold (good for IBS, I never knew), echinacea (two teaspoons of fresh chopped petals, or one of dried as a general health booster), spearmint and St John’s wort (dry the flowers to use as a mild antidepressant).
Growing Self-Sufficiency: realise your dream and enjoy producing your own fruit, vegetables, eggs and meat by Sally Nex, £15.88 from greenbooks.co.uk
Keen herb growers might also enjoy Judith Haan’s new book. Remember her from Tomorrow’s World? Well now she has become an expert in growing herbs and cooking with them.
I see from this that I should have cut down the lovage in my veg plot in mid summer to give new leaves a chance to grow. This old fashioned herb isn’t seen that often now and I realise, from reading this book, that there are many more things I could be doing with it (other than adding it to salads and using it in soups and gravies when I run out of celery). I could, for instance, cook it like spinach and now I am longing to try Haan’s recipe for guinea fowl with lovage and lime.
Herbs: delicious recipes and growing tips to transform your food by Judith Haan, £20 from nourishbooks.com
In the fruit garden
If you are lucky enough to have a damson tree get picking. Even if you can’t be bothered with all the palaver of jam making the preparation of damson gin is a doddle. Use a decent base gin (the best you can afford), wash the picked over fruits (removing stalks, leaves and damaged ones) and prick with a fork. Place with the gin and sugar in a clean jar with a tight fitting lid. Kilner jars are ideal. Shake well and store in a cool, dark cupboard. Try Diana Henry’s damson gin recipe.
Pick apples and pears using the cup and twist technique to check ripeness. This entails cradling them in the palm of your hand. If the stalks come away from the branch with a gentle turn you know they are ready for picking. Any severely damaged fruits are better turned into pies and crumbles, rotting ones can go on the compost heap but surface blemishes are only just that. Make sure they are quite dry before storing and check on them regularly to remove any that start to rot before they affect the rest.
Pot up strawberries either making new plants from runners (see August tips) or try something different. For a change I am going to try some new varieties bred to taste like wild alpine strawberries. These should give that elusive, highly scented flavour (a bit like old fashioned Parma Violet sweets). The two I am trying are Strawberry Parfum ‘ScheweizerHerz’ (which have pale centres) and ‘Eternal Love’ These have been especially bred by the Swiss breeders Lubera, so I have high hopes. There are few things more delicious than wild alpine strawberry jam - roll on next June.
Browse the Saga Garden Centre for great offers on fruit and vegetables now.
To give box hedges a trim before the winter. If you leave it much later the soft new growth pruning encourages might get caught by the first frosts.
To sow new grass seed. Capitalise on wet weather and warm soil and repair small threadbare patches by scattering on lawn seed.
To lift potatoes. They all need to be dug by the end of the month otherwise they’ll be slugged to death and become inedible. Choose a dry day and let them dry out on the soil before bagging only those without any blemishes or fork damage. Store somewhere dark, dry and frost-free.
To put in orders for spring bulbs. Think ahead and ensure you have bulbs that will flower in every month giving you a succession of colour. Looking for inspiration? Try these dwarf bulbs for the garden.
For spring bulb planting. For tips find out how to buy, plant and grow spring bulbs.
To order bulbs for forcing indoors such as hyacinth and paperwhite narcissus.
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