I know this is a little premature, but I’m readying myself for a new gardening related project and there is so much to plan – you might think the workload would be slowing down come September but there is still so much to do, in both the ornamental and kitchen garden – maintaining both, extending the season and the harvest but also planning and planting for winter and next spring to think about! A Buckfast Tonic Wine I think!
Things to do in the ornamental garden
- Keep dahlias blooming – snip off flowers as soon as they have faded – removing old flowers encourages more buds to form and reduces the risk of grey mould taking hold. Spent flowers have a cone shape while new flowers are plump and round
- Rose leaves affected by blackspot or rust should be picked off/picked up and disposed of – not added to the compost pile. Keep deadheading for a chance of further flowers (for repeat blooming varieties of course – but if there are autumn hips expected, leave the deadheading well alone!). Check for rose suckers too.
- Continue feeding and watering hanging baskets and seasonal containers. Tomato food, high in Potash, is just the thing for happier flowering seasonal displays.
- Spray fungicide on Michaelmas Daisies (asters) to prevent mildew
- Take cuttings from penstemons, fuchsias and tender perennials – perlargoniums too.
- Take root cuttings from hardy perennials such as Japanese anemones, acanthus, echinops and verbascums
- Divide overcrowded perennials such as geraneums (cranesbills), hostas and bearded irises
- Give rhododendrons and camellias a good watering, especially those in pots which are prone to drying out. Flower buds are currently forming at the shoot tips, so a lack of water now could reduce flowering in spring
- Plant autumn crocuses in pots
- Buy the best bulbs for a spring and early summer display – narcissus, tulips, hyacinths, muscari, alliums, puschkinnias and more are all available now. Tulips can be planted out in the garden almost until Christmas while other bulbs, particularly daffodils, ought to be in the ground much much earlier.
- Transplant evergreen shrubs – any shrubs growing in the wrong place, particularly evergreens and conifers, can be moved now. Warm soil and damp weather encourage new root growth and reduce the need for regular watering. Now is also the time to plant new evergreens, such as holly and conifer hedging
- Take a trip to Great Dixter if at all possible. Christopher Lloyd created and his Head Gardener Fergus Garrett maintains and develops this Sussex garden that sings in late summer and autumn.
The Kitchen Garden
- Keep beans flowering – runner beans will continue producing flowers well into September, as long as you don’t leave old pods on the plants to set seed. Keep picking young, tender beans as they develop. Give plants a good watering at least once a week if conditions are dry
- Pick plums – as plums ripen into September, pick them promptly to enjoy at their best. Late varieties such as Marjorie’s Seedling will soon be ripe, so pick the largest and leave the small ones to develop further. Remove damaged fruits or any showing signs of rotting. Pick cautiously if wasps are present and collect up fallen fruit to avoid attracting even more!
- Sow broad beans for early crops next spring. If you sow broad beans in the autumn, they’ll establish before the onset of winter and produce crops next year well before spring-sown beans. Choose hardy varieties such as Aquadulce Claudia.
- Before conditions turn cool later in September, cover clumps of herbs such as parsley, coriander, basil and mint with cloches. These will provide sufficient protect to give you further picking right through into autumn
- Stop the rot – apples that have been pecked by birds or damaged by pests are susceptible to brown rot, so check your crop regularly. It’s also worth hanging reflective scarers in trees to help prevent bird damage becoming a problem
- Stake and support tall-growing Brussels sprouts by tying the stalks to sturdy canes
- Cut off old leaves and unwanted runners from strawberries once fruiting ends. Dispose of straw bedding if used, and clean and put away any matting if this has been used.
- Sow hardy peas and winter salads under cloches to promote fast germination
- Carefully lift all maincrop potatoes and store in paper or hessian bags. Keep a watchful eye out for signs of blight.
- Lift your onions – when onion foliage keels over, starts to dry out and turns brown, the bulbs have stopped developing and are ready to harvest. Let this happen naturally, as forcing the leaves flat can bruise the neck and cause rotting.
- Don’t forget to pinch out the main tip of outdoor tomatoes a couple of leaves above the top fruit truss. This focuses energy into ripening the fruits rather than wasting it on more growth and forming flowers that won’t have a chance to set.
- For tomatoes planted in pots, baskets and grow bags, avoid splitting of the fruit by keeping the plants well watered – irregular watering will cause the skins of ripening fruit to split, making the fruit unpalatable.
- Watch out for new apple Redlove Era – an unusual red-fleshed apple that is crisp and tasty with a hint of berries. Pretty pink blossom and good resistance to apple scab.
- As autumn approaches, fruit takes over from veg on the edible to-do list. It is your last chance to prune plums and other stone fruits and the bare root planting season is upon us.
- New blueberry plants (Hannah’s Choice is a new variety with big crops of sweet fruits) can be put in between now and November, cherries (Morello, a self-fertile acid cherry), grapes (Boskoop Glory, a hardy black dessert grape), pears, plums and strawberries (honeoye) too.
- Consider planting green manures in empty areas of the veg plot.
Autumn lawn care
- As conditions turn cool through autumn and lawns grow more slowly, raise the cutting height of your mower to leave grass longer. A cutting height of around 4cm is ideal, while for rougher areas, 5-6cm is best.
- Apply an autumn lawn fertiliser, high in potash (K) and phosphate (P), to encourage strong root development and toughen up the grass ready for the winter ahead. Don’t use spring or summer lawn feeds as these contain lots of nitrogen which will encourage soft green growth that is easily damaged by winter cold. They can also field the growth of fungal diseases. Don’t leave fallen leaves on the lawn as they not only look messy, but can kill off grass hidden below. Bag up fallen leaves to make valuable leaf mould.
- Rake out lawn moss – if the excessively wet weather (last year particularly) has caused thick moss to develop on your lawn, now is the right time to tackle it. After mowing the lawn, use a spring-tined rake or powered scarifier to lift it out. You might be surprised how much you can clean out. On extensive areas of moss, treat with a moss killer to blacken it, before raking it off. Raking also aerates the spoil and removes any dead grass.
- Next, improve the surface drainage, so moss doesn’t regrow. Make holes in the lawn with a hollow-tined aerator or digging fork, then fill them with sharp sand, brushing this in with a soft broom.
- There are biological controls to combat chafer-grubs and leather-jackets. These pests feed on grass roots, creating bare patches on lawns. Nematodes that kill pest larvae are available by mail-order. Chemical controls containing neo-nicontinoids have been withdrawn pending further investigations into their role in the decline of the bee population.