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Blog posts tagged with 'autumn'

What does autumn say to you?

Chill in the air; the first frosts; golden leaves crunching underfoot?

Personally, I think it is the most wonderous time of year. As Shakespeare put it, " The teeming autumn, big with rich increase, Bearing the wanton burden of the prime, Like widow'd wombs after their lords' decease."  Of course, I was not want of love so the wanton burden is not orphaned to me!

Autumn is the season of tidying, of preparing for what the winter may bring; of taking stock too and thinking on the richness of the spring to follow. Perhaps best described as the slow gentle release of warm breath before the slumber.

Of course it offers much to the garden cognoscente. Visit an arboretum and enjoy the wonderful colours and textures that this time of year offers. If you are lucky, there may be some autumn crocus or cyclamen to brighten your perambulations and temper your mood. Seek out the Katsura tree, (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) whose golden leaves smell of burnt sugar when in hot sun or when crushed. A true gem of autumn.

When you return home think on. Leaf mould is a superb free source of soil improver, so, rather than burning the fallen crop why not collect it in string bags and give it a chance to rot down for a good late summer mulch next year. Nature giving free garden bounty cannot be sniffed at, or in the case of the Katsura, perhaps it can!

After the first frost has bitten, collect sloes and add it to gin. Let it steep for 2 months for a hearty Christmas  warmer. If you are so inclined I am told crab apple vodka is equally stimulating but time is running out for this year's crop as the apples are starting to tarnish!

Also, start to think over your garden plans. What are you going to plant and where. Look at the seed catalogues. If you are planning an evergreen bonanza, now is the time to purchase and plant. Spring bulbs are also in need of a good home. Just remember, try not to plant them in a fine lawn or in areas of special cultivation. You may regret the impulse.

Add a last mulch of compost or manure whilst the soil still retains some heat. Your plants will reward you next year for all the cosseting you give this.

Autumn Lawncare

It may have escaped your attention, but we appear to be almost at the end of September. Where did that go? Not that I am complaining of course, the sea is still beautifully warm and the balmy, but slighlty wet air has extended a summer feel to the gardens. T-shirts are still needed!

If you haven’t scarified your lawn, now is the time. Many think one does this in Spring, but they would be wrong as it weakens the grass structure when it is trying to grow after the struggles of winter.  You can scarify simply by raking the grass with a metal, spring-tined rake. If you have a bigger lawn, you can hire a mechanical scarifier. Simply put, what you are trying to achieve is the perfect lawn. By scarifying, you are trying to rid the lawn of all the years build up of thatch and dead grass. You are also encouraging stronger root growth, which given we are increasingly having dry summers, you will do well to remember, the better the root, the better it will survive. If you have bald spots on the lawn, buy some lawn seed and mix with compost and cover the patch, watering liberally. If the whole lawn is thin, add seed to the whole thing, once you have scarified. A good root feed will also help – do not add nitrogen now as it will be wasted. There are many root feeds to choose from, but bone meal will do no harm.

Try to spike the lawn before you feed then water well to wash the nutrient in.

If you are wondering why the grass is going mad at the moment and needs cutting twice a week, it is because we are in the period the French call the ‘second spring’. Basically as winter approaches all the plants are burning off all the last of their sugars – which is a liability in cold weather as it crystallizes in the cells and eventually destroys them. Plants like grass do not have a good tap root, so will instead go into a state of virtual hibernation – which is why many other plants by autumn have built huge tubers full of carbohydrate converted from sugars to see them through the dark months.

August - an interesting time in the garden

As the weather changes to Autumnal westerly storms, August is an interesting time in the garden. The Swifts departed at the end of July and many of the Martins and Swallows with them for some reason. What that says about our coming season I know not. If you have a problem with you lawns now is the time to start thinking of how to rectify them. For example, I am about to treat a client's lawn with an Autumn feed and moss killer so that it is ready for scarifying in September. This may sound odd, but one must remember grass is a fickle plant. It cannot be grown too long (otherwise it clumps). By the same token neither can it be cut too short (it gets stressed, dies back and allows moss to take over). It doesn't like shallow roots, nor wet roots and it doesn't like too much wear from footfall. Who'd have a lawn? It is a little known fact that the National Trust replaces vast swathes of turf in the autumn and winter, leaving the impression that somehow they have the magical touch. A green and flat lawn may be every Englishman's idea of perfection, but, truth be told, to get one right deserves a medal or a perhaps a padded cell - I am never sure which.

In the flower garden as plants finish flowering try to deadhead them to extend the flowering season. Some roses especially respond well if they think that all their efforts at propagation have gone to waste. If the plant is a shrub, prune the whole plant back into shape once the flowers are spent. Then feed everything well with a good mixture of blood fish and bone - the poor things must be exhausted after all the exertions attracting the bees!

August is also the month when you get the winter veg in.  Cabbages, Brussels Sprouts, Turnip Greens and Collards are all high on the list of plants that will provide early leaf for next Spring. Remember that these plants like a good firm soil to live in - they hate to be rocked by hard winds. Also add a dressing of garden lime to the soil as you plant, to deter root problems. I have also been naughty and planted onions at this time of year too. If I am honest, the harvest was a little earlier than normal, but nothing truly remarkable despite what the books say. 

Trimming your hedges

 

Hedges are a major part of many of our gardens, but we rarely look at them with any discerning eye until they are either suffering from some malaise or have grown rampant and need immediate work.

Over the years I have always been surprised by the lack of interest in such a common garden structure because they are often what we first see. They either skirt the edges denoting a boundary, create privacy where you feel it is needed or are merely left over from a previous owner who must have had a vision but nobody can work out what it was.

The same goes for the treatment of them. Pruned badly, clipped tightly or left to do their own thing until they are difficult to manage. Little care is ever taken to actually work out what the hedge may need to survive and are sometimes expensive to replace.

In fact, hedges are a vital part of our man-made ‘natural’ flora today as many agricultural hedges have been grubbed out or pruned with a flail leaving them weak and thinned , with little value to wildlife.

In law many are protected, especially during the breeding season when hopefully small chicks and perhaps dormice are nesting. In winter the bases of hedges are also vital for hibernating mammals and insects, out of the way of the worst of the winter weather. That is why it is illegal to trim hedges during the spring and early summer and also now during the later months of the year unless you know it does not have any nesting animals ensconced amongst the branches or in the leaf litter.

If you are wanting to cut your hedge, now is the time to do it. However, first be aware of what type of hedge you have. Some hedges will not take a hard prune, (such as with some coniferous trees) – if you cut back to bare branches on some plants, they will not grow back. If you have a holly hedge, it will grow back slowly. A privet hedge on the other hand will continue to grow at a rapid rate once established. If your hedge is very leggy (i.e it has bare stems or trunk and lots of growth at the top), it will only grow leaves on the ‘legs’ if you cut it down closer to the ground and let it start again! However  be advised this only works with certain plants, as some plants don’t like being cut back hard at all. Also, if it flowers, is now the time to prune it if you want flowers again next year?

Now you see the nature of that one simple ‘green thing’ that has always been there may not be as simple as you thought. Best get the plant identification book out and think carefully about how you want to proceed.

Preparing for Harvest
If you are keen on growing veg and want to continue the harvest well into autumn and winter, now is your chance to sow.
 
 
 
You still have a window for Broad Beans and Peas, for a September/October harvest. If you plant potatoes in planters, pots or grow bags from now until August and keep them in a frost free area, you will have crops of new potatoes until Christmas.  You will also now have to think about the winter veg. Black Kale, Brussel Sprouts, Chard are all plants that you can harvest through autumn and winter – not forgetting the winter cabbage and winter salads. Perhaps you can turn your attention to Onions also, which can be planted in august for an early harvest next year. Not forgetting research those plants like Collard and Turnip-tops that fill the ‘hungry gap’ next March.
 
In the ornamental garden, your flower beds should now be looking spectacular, but I have no doubt there will be areas you are not happy with. Make a note in your gardening book of the things you need to do, ready for autumn. This year has been great for many plants, but it has also been great for fungus. The hot damp air giving them ideal conditions to grow. Check your roses, hollyhocks, and iris. These are all very susceptible to an attack of rusts, wilts and other horribles. If you see any sign of disease try to cut the area from the plant and burn it. If the plant is too far gone, make a note and remember to treat early next year or remove the plant entirely if seriously damaged.
 

 

An interesting garden fact? Until the discovery of the ‘Persian Yellow’ variety and the use of it in the breeders’ gene pool, roses never suffered from black spot fungus. So if your rose suffers from this problem, at least you know part of its fine lineage. In Autumn, pick up all the fallen leaves and burn them so the fungus does not sit dormant for an attack next year. An old wives tale states garlic planted amongst your roses prevents such attacks – making sure to stop it from flowering else your roses take on a smell of alliums…

Next year is the hundredth anniversary of the start of the vast human tragedy that was World War One. For those who want to commemorate this solemn occasion now is the perfect time to buy and sow the Common Corn Poppy. Papaver Rhoeas is the correct species name, but many of the main seed suppliers will sell it in either name. Indeed if you look online, with some careful trawling, you will find suppliers willing to sell up to a kilo of the beautiful flower seed.

It is a delicate annual flower, lasting perhaps only a day, but is a plant nevertheless which has special meaning and a powerful beauty. It is also profligate in seed, so be aware, once successfully sown it will be forever more in your garden.

The best way for it to grow, is for you to prepare the ground first. It prefers newly broken and well tilled soil - hence its sudden appearance on the fields of Flanders, after the shelling and bombardments had destroyed the well kept fields, turning them to all consuming mud. Thus, when they suddenly filled this desolate land with rich red, it must have been a thing of terrible beauty to those poor souls.

If however, like me you are thinking of filling a lawn or driveway with the flower, the most favoured way is to mix the seed with compost first. 1 bag of compost to 100 grams of seed, but if you have bought a small bag, just sow direct.Then with a slitter or spiker - or indeed with a garden fork - create shallow holes throughout the area. To be fair you should be doing this now anyway to de-compact and add drainage to the soil before winter so every few spikes, should be deeper.

Once you are satisfied, walk slowly over the area, sowing conservatively to make sure of an even spread.Once you have finished, sit back. Hopefully next year, you can be proud to remember all those, friend or foe, who lost their lives in the most grievous of conflicts.
Autumn bulbs

At this time of year we are all looking forward to the imminent arrival of spring and all the flowers that will burst forth to lighten our days. But how many of you are looking forward to Autumn and how we can improve the garden display before next winter?

There are a number of bulbs which you can buy now and plant when the frosts have passed which you might enjoy and will certainly add colour at the other end of the year. Beside the fact that there are now enough species of snowdrops to provide flower all year round (except for some reason the month of May), there are some less well known but equally beautiful additions to the borders.


1. Autumn Crocus or Colychinum.
A stunning plant, that is actually not a crocus. Plant underneath a tree or similar area to prevent it from suffering from too much rain.

2. Dahlia.
An excellent cut flower and so many to choose from (although it makes the water smell very quickly), this is a must have addition to any border.

3. Crocosmia.
The new name for 'Monbretia', one of my personal favourites and again a beautiful plant for the flower arranger.


4. Nerines.
These pink flowers are so recognisable, yet are much maligned. A personal favourite. Treat yourself.

And if you really want to push to boat out and think of NEXT year, try sourcing some winter flowering aconites 'in the green' and cyclamen. Marvellous for that very early spring colour. Oh, and if you want the 'all-year-round' snowdrops, be prepared by taking calm breaths and be ready to empty your deep pockets of any loose change. One rare bulb recently sold for £750!

-- Guy Deakins

Easy mulching

 


Something I love about Autumn is when all the leaves fall to the ground. When they are dry, the brown, red and caramel shades look gorgeous amongst the green grass. However when they are wet, they are slippery and dangerous!

Now that your garden is beginning the process of dying down for the Autumn and Winter ahead, it’s time to think ahead to next years garden. Collect all your leaves., dry or wet. Put them in a mulch bin or a bin liner. Pierce a few holes into the bag around the sides, lightly water the leaves and then tie the top of the bag. Leave somewhere shaded and leave it to naturally mulch down. Leave it till spring/summer for a mulch or leave it a whole year for a great compost.

-- Gemma Dray

September is harvest time

 

1. It is time to lift the main carrot crop before the cold weather sets in. Cut off the leaves and store in sand or dry soil in a shed Keep the carrots well spaced.

2. Plant out pot grown rooted strawberry runners.

3. Rake out dead grass from your lawn with a spring-tine rake and aerate the lawn.

4. If you have grown more marrows than you can eat, then pick the best ones and gently cradle them in cloth and hang in a dry place where the temperature will not fall below 45 degrees F. They should keep you going until February.

5. Lift and dry onions and hang in nets in a cool, dry place.

6. Lift your celeriac when the bulbous stems are blanched. Remove leaves and store in the same way as for carrots.

7. September is the best month for sowing grass seed and repairing dead turf.

8. In order to have a continuous supply of vegetables and salads during autumn and winter, I think the large cloches are ideal. I have ones with four panes of glass with wire supports which are ideal for growing winter radish, lettuce and parsley.

9. Root cuttings of anchusa can be taken now.

10. Clear asparagus beds when the leaves turn yellow. Cut the stems to within a few inches of the ground.

11. If you’re left with any unripened tomatoes, pick them and wrap them in brown packing paper and they’ll soon turn their colour, or alternatively green tomatoes can be pickled or used to make chutney.

12. If you’d like to collect seeds from ripened tomatoes for next season, cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the pulp and seeds in to an earthenware bowl and leave for two days. After two days wash and strain through a sieve and clear the pulp way. Spread the seeds out onto a sheet of glass and leave to dry. Once dry, store in paper bags. A dry cupboard is the best place to store seeds.

13. Your maincrops of potato can all be harvested this month, as well as cauliflowers, leeks, broccoli, turnips, celery and beetroot.

14. When gladiolus leaves turn colour, lift and bring them under cover for a week, then remove the soil, cut off the stems about a half inch above the corms. Take off the old corm below the new and save the small offset corms to plant in boxes of peat in spring. Store in paper bags in a cool, frost proof place with a little dry sand over them and keep until planting time.

15. Clear away tired annuals.

16. Take cuttings of roses.

17. Transplant seedling wallflowers.

18. Order fruit trees and bushes.

19. Prune blackcurrant, raspberry, peach and nectarines.

20. Plant violets in a frame.

-- Rob Amey

Autumn is upon us

Well folks, September has arrived. Odd that, seeing as our summer hardly got going before the first signs of autumn crept into our early morning bones.


As I am sure I have said before, I love this time of year most of all. The weather is still mild, yet things in the garden seemed to have slowed. The last of the summer vegetable harvest is ready to be picked and the apples are sitting heavy on the boughs. I have already pencilled in my visit to Sheffield Park, the garden designed for autumn colour in the heart of Sussex and all is good in the world.

Time to sit back in the deck chair for one last warm snooze, whilst the light is still good? Not on your nelly! Now is the time, not so much of our discontent, but most definitely of much anticipated activity in the garden following the rather dull and monotonous tending of the garden in the previous months. Cutting back all those perennials that are rapidly passing their best is the first chore which must be done, not forgetting to leave some seed heads for the birds.

Pruning the climbing roses is another, as I described at this time last year in this very spot (check the archives if you don’t believe me). If your lawns have had a hard wear this summer, then now is the time to patch those glaring holes. The final sowing of winter green manure Phacelia is also a must for all those that want to return some goodness and compost to the soil later in the winter, not forgetting mulching is of vital importance too - trap the last of the warmth in the soil now and pay dividends later.

Sowings of winter and spring crops can still be made, such as cresses, carrot, turnips, mooli and endive; not forgetting onions sown now for spring. Now is also the time for taking cuttings from your favourite pelargoniums and verbenas. Under glass it is also time to prune you apricot, peach and nectarine trees, removing all laterals, tying in all those shoots that are required for next years fruit.

Finally, in that oh so special place we all have secreted in the vast expanse of the average urban garden, ‘The Pinery’; keep a genial atmosphere of between 70° and 83° among your fruiting plants. Water them with clear manure water, refraining from syringing those in fruit or flower. Not forgetting that pineapples are thought to grow better from fermenting rotting material beneath than from the use of hot water.

So, lots to do, before you clean your tools and shut up shop for winter, reverting to your welcoming armchairs besides the hearth. Just one last thing mind you. Don’t forget, above all other things, the second spring is coming. That curious moment offered by Mother Nature when all plants burn off the last of their stored food, producing a burst of growth reminiscent of early spring. So perhaps don’t down tools just yet.

-- Guy Deakins