Autumn is like marmite, you either love it or hate it! Summer is done and the days are getting shorter. As a gardener I love autumn. It’s a very busy and exciting time in our gardens and there’s lots to do and enjoy.
The change in season brings a very practical time ahead, but it’s definitely not all doom and gloom as far as I’m concerned. If you want to give your garden a tidy up, now is the time to start cutting back the flowering perennials that have given us an abundance of colour over the summer, or lift and divide genus such as Geranium. This also creates space to plant some lovely autumn and winter colour – any excuse for another trip to the garden centre or local plant nursery.
However, some gardeners prefer to leave the cutting back until spring, to allow shelter for hibernating insects such as Ladybirds (which are natural predators of garden pests such as aphids), and a source of food for birds and wildlife at this time of year.
After the scorching summer and the impact this has had on our lawns, they will welcome some particular care and attention. Give your lawn a thorough combing with a spring-tined rake to remove any dead grass and debris, and keep an eye out for Leatherjackets (Daddy Long Legs larvae) that may be munching their way through the roots of your grass. Spike the lawn at intervals of 15 -20cm (6-8 inches) with a border fork, to allow moisture into the soil, then treat it with an Autumn feed which contains higher levels of phosphate and potassium (this will strengthen the roots for winter). Finish off by watering in the granules if no rain is expected, to ensure the seeds begin to germinate.
The exciting bit for me is planning what to plant and grow at this time of year, and is an aspect of gardening that many people struggle with. Keeping colour in the garden will help us to feel brighter about the lack of hazy summer sunshine, and for the vegetable growers amongst us continuing to produce our own homegrown delights gives us a welcome challenge ahead.
I am currently focusing on my onion sets and overwintering broad beans for the allotment, and at home, Cyclamen with Hedera ‘Gold Ingot’ for my hanging baskets, with a new bare root climbing rose for the front garden border. October is a great time for planting, when the soil is still warm enough from the summer heat to ensure that plants establish a good root system in time for winter. Bulbs are also part of my planning to keep colour and interest going in the garden through until spring, so I have recently planted in Crocus ‘Goldilocks’ to complement last year’s plantings of Narcissus and Galanthus.
So if you’re already missing your t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops, don’t despair. Sort the lawn, tidy where you want to, and choose some lovely new colourful plants to enjoy in your garden throughout the beautiful season ahead. Then sit down with a well-earned Marmite sandwich!
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