The time for Autumn Gardening has arrived as today, 22nd September, marks the official start of Autumn.
Autumn and the early winter months will always bring varied weather to our island. Always expect rain, some sun and of course wind to a greater or lesser force on most days. The trick is to be prepared, to remain stoic and be happy no matter what the weather.
There are lots of things to do in your garden during these months, but whilst you are working through your list of ‘must do, might do and maybe not’ it’s a perfect opportunity to have a good look at where you can improve your horticultural lot for the following year. A bigger and better fruit and Vegetable plot, if you haven’t already paved over your future prospects, more trees and shrubs to add diversity colour and proportion to you ornamental garden. It is important to remember that your ornamental garden, apart from being beautiful is an important food source for the wildlife that visits your garden.
Autumn is nature’s planting time. The cooler temperatures reduce the amount of watering required and allow the plant time to settle in to its new home before spring. Tree planting is easier than you think and anyone can get involved and now is the perfect time to get started. Read our blog on tree planting here.
Plants that will be looking gorgeous this autumn and winter include the autumn colours of Liquidambar styraciflua’s stunning leaves, the many berried Hollies Ilex sp, the stunning winter Camellias, crystallite Witch Hazels (Hamamellis), bohemian Hellebores, Dog Woods with their beautiful barks, White stemmed Birch, the highly fragrant and evergreen Christmas Box (Sarcocca) and the Cinnamon stem of Acer griseum. Also look for the blush bark of Betula ermanii and the snakeskin mosaics of Acer davidii. Neither blousy, nor brash these plants quietly show an elegant beauty in the low lights of the shorter months, so take time to find and to appreciate them.
This is the time of compost making, raking up leaves and composting them so that they return all their food and goodness to the soil without losing the carefully built up nutrient base of the past year. If you can mix in vegetable scraps, eggshells and other biodegradable kitchen waste, then all the better, but don’t mix in meat products. There are many styles of composters to choose from and different ways to compost.
This is the time of compost making
As a general rule of thumb try to set the composter onto soil base rather than a solid base, to encourage soil organisms up into it so they can break the organic matter down. If including grass clippings try to use just thin layers of dry grass and mix it well in. I usually put in a layer of thin sticks as well, then scatter some Garotta compost maker on, it really speeds the compost process up.
If you haven’t already done so, then plant out your spring bulbs, it’s a sublime job to do in these cooler months, a piece of hidden art and design. If you only have pots then plant the bulbs under your spring bedding to poke through like latecomers to a party. Alternatively cut out some squares or rolls of turf on your lawn and throw a quantity of crocus bulbs under, roll back the turf and tamp lightly down, then wait for them wriggle through in hazy pastels during early spring.
It’s a great time to prune the deciduous members of your garden, such as your roses, fruit trees, grape vines and many of the shrubs. Try if possible to prune to their natural shape and not create a circular one, few shrubs were designed to grow like footballs. It also helps to prevent wind rock in those climatically challenging gardens if the wind can pass through.
If you have trouble with winter moth, or think you may have, then buy grease bands to put around the trunks of any tree likely to be affected (usually fruit trees). Check fruit for signs of canker and cut out any growths that show such signs, before it gets a hold. Canker looks like runny resin or resinous patches on the bark.
It is a time to remember the birds, make sure they have regular access to water and food, if you have a new hermetically sealed house that no mouse or bird can ever make a home in, they why not put out a few nesting boxes, they won’t nest yet, but it maybe a welcome refuge on a cold and wet night.
It is also a time to remember Christmas, not only in the decorating of a Christmas tree but also in the giving of gifts. Why not make it a different gift, give them something that will not only grow, but will produce flowers, fruit, vegetable or herbs.