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.
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.
The new name for 'Monbretia', one of my personal favourites and again a beautiful plant for the flower arranger.
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
Now is the time to start thinking about buying your bulbs to plant out in the Autumn for the following year. If you put in the effort now you will be rewarded with a variety of flowers throughout next year.
Some bulbs I have been looking to plant out are:
Look online for a great variety of different breeds of plants and maybe even some bulk buy offers!
-- Gemma Dray
1. Weed strawberry beds and cut off old leaves from your strawberry plants to keep plants healthy. You need to replace your strawberry plants every year, so plant out pot grown rooted runners in a new bed next month.
2. The end of August is the ideal time to sow grass seed and repair any bare patches
3. This month, store all apples, pears and plums
4. August is a good time to get ahead by planting hardy annuals instead of waiting for the spring. They can easily be transplanted in the spring. You may lose a few during the winter, but those that do survive will be stronger than those sown in spring. Choose cornflowers, Nigella, larkspur, scabious, eschscholtzia and Shirley poppies.
5. Prune rambler roses shortly after the blooms have faded. Detach shoots from their supports. You can use these as cuttings to form roots in jars of water.
6. Clip hedges
7. Plant early flowering bulbs – crocus, squill, winter aconite, chionodoxa and snowdrops.
8. After the last crop of broad beans, cut down the stems to a few inches of the ground, fork the surface around them and water thoroughly. A fresh crop of new shoots will shortly appear producing a second crop of small beans which should be harvested regularly.
9. Boil rhubarb leaves. Use the water as a spray against aphids.
10. Bend onion leaves over at the neck to check further growth and encourage ripening.
11. Harvest spring onions and sow onions for next year’s crop.
12. Sow winter spinach.
13. Pot bulbs of hyacinth, narcissus and early daffodils.
14. Take cuttings of lavender, berberis, aucubas and ceanothus and keep in a cold frame where they will soon root.
15. Clean and paint your greenhouse.
16. Deadhead regularly to encourage flowering to go on longer.
17. Continue hoeing to keep the weeds down.
18. Check fencing and trellis are secure for the winter months.
19. Keep alpine plants tidy by cutting back the stems.
20. Give scruffy bedding plants, such as nemesia and lobelia a trim to keep them producing more flowers by cutting back the plants with secateurs to about half their height.
-- Rob Amey
In my constant search for titbits of perhaps best forgotten garden knowledge, I am constantly reminded of the idea of companion planting. I must profess to having read many, many tomes on the subject, some inspiring, some less so. In fact, if I am honest the Internet is full of websites declaring the virtues of various pairings, but not being one to give up at the first hurdle, I shall endeavour to briefly introduce you to this subject.
Firstly, you must understand that this line of horticultural experimentation is not foolproof. Who in their right mind decided that it was a good idea to plant nasturtium next to broad bean in the vain hope that the winged pest that is 'Blackfly' (Aphis fabae) would somehow prefer to live on the former more than the latter? Notwithstanding I persevere to understand the concept that planting one plant betwixt others somehow enriches the growth or eliminates pests and, I must admit, I have had some success.
For example, did you know planting onion or leek in alternate rows with carrot, not only deters the dreaded Carrot Root Fly, but also the Onion Root Fly. This process of using scent is a common theme, planting rosemary next to roses apparently deters aphid or the planting of garlic in flower beds offers some protection from insect attack.
Another tried and tested companion plant relationship is Brassicas next to a bean. This may at first seem odd, but there is scientific method. Beans hold nitrogen in the soil, brassicas need nitrogen to grow nice healthy leaves. Thus a match made in heaven and you should include in this list spinach and chard. Similarly, the native Americans in their wisdom, used to plant climbing beans with maize. The maize prospered due to the increased nitrogen, the bean gained a free trellis.
Finally, chemical warfare is a useful ally in the garden. By this I do not mean expensive and ecologically damaging pesticides. I am of course referring to naturally released oils and hormones. Tagetes, otherwise known as the African marigold, has a useful chemical which has been scientifically proved chemical to ward of soil born insects such as wireworm, so plant them liberally amongst potatoes and other root crop for a bumper harvest. They also provide a food source for beneficial insects such as hoverfly.
So next time you look at your planting plan, have a thought for what goes with what and how you can help your garden look after itself.
-- Guy Deakins
Want to know the secret of beautiful hanging baskets? Read on...
Properly planted hanging baskets are a glorious sight, so it’s a pity that all too often they end up looking like abandoned bird’s nests. A fabulous basket can be yours with a little preparation and lots of easy aftercare.
Plant a basket at the beginning of May to give it a fortnight or so to thicken up before hanging it in place. It can be left in a porch or a cold greenhouse or even in a sheltered spot protected with polythene.
• Balance the basket on a large flowerpot or bucket
• Line it with a fibrous liner
• Make sure all the chosen plants are well watered in their trays or pots
• To retain moisture, place a circular piece of polythene in the base of the basket on top of the liner
• Use a soil-less multipurpose compost and mix with water retaining granules
• Put a little compost in the base of the basket
• Take each of the plants which are to form the first layer, tip it from its container and squeeze the rootball to make it small enough to fit through the basket mesh and liner - you’ll need to push a hole through the liner with your fingers first. Never feed the foliage from inside to outside, always feed roots in from the outside as the plant will suffer less damage.
• Space the plants between 10cm / 4inches and 15cm / 6inches apart around the edge of the basket
• Build up layers of compost and plants
• When the basket is filled to within 2.5cm / 1inch of the top, plant up the top with bushy plants.
• Water the basket well and make sure it never dries out. Lack of water is the biggest cause of failure. Once hung in place water every single day!
• Feed with dilute liquid tomato fertilizer once a week to keep it flowering well
NOTE: Don’t forget to check your brackets and chains before hanging. You don’t want all your hard work unceremoniously dumped in a heap on the path below!
And some plant suggestions...
Trusty Trailing Plants
These bedding plants come in beautiful trailing varieties.
- Lobelia Bidens
- Ivy-leaf pelargonium
Brilliant Bushy Basket Toppers
These cast their stems out sideways making them suitable basket toppers.
-- Rob Amey
-- Rob Amey
I really should take notice of this piece of advice myself, rather than making plans to grow enough food to feed a small country. But every January/February brings the sound of seed catalogues dropping on the mat and me grabbing them with excitement, drooling over all the pictures of beautiful healthy vegetables that I obviously need to grow!
So I plan all my raised beds (I have six of them, so am very lucky), making sure that I follow the principle of rotating them so that I don’t grow the same thing in the same one each year. I then place my seed order and look forward to the moment they arrive, hoping the weather improves and I can get into the greenhouse and plant them all!
And that’s where it all goes a bit wrong. It is all down to time, you see, or rather lack of it. I am sure that my plans would all come to fruition if I were able to spend every waking moment in my garden, tending the seedlings, planting out and nurturing them but unfortunately I don’t have every waking moment to spend in the garden due to work commitments, children, dog, chickens, etc....
So I come back to my piece of advice and the title of this blog - don’t bite off more than you can chew. This year I am planning to utilise only a couple of the raised beds and nurture these rather than failing miserably by doing too much. Let’s face it, you don’t need 10 courgette plants or 15 tomato plants and if you feel the need to plant lots of seeds so that you can pick the best ones to plant out, then sell the extra ones outside your house or give them away to friends and relatives.
This way you can make sure everything grows healthily and you will not have to try and keep up with the harvesting - usually of one type of vegetable at a time. So choose wisely and enjoy each crop as it comes along without getting stressed!
-- Jane Dubinski