Garden Tips, Tricks & more…

And you thought it was time to relax…

Autumn is one of the busiest times of the gardening calendar, and traditional gardeners like myself think of September as the start of the gardening year.  This is the time we start preparing the garden for next season.

So if you’re planning a new garden layout for next year, then start planning now.  Don’t leave it until next Spring to arrange, as good designers and landscapers get booked up very quickly over the winter, and it can then prove difficult to find the professionals you would prefer to do the work. This year Reeley Landscapes has worked with some excellent hard landscaping professionals that were booked months in advance before the project start date.  In this case the early bird really does catch the worm, so call or drop me a line if you are planning a garden project and I will help you get the ball rolling.

Please also take a few minutes to browse my re-developed website and gallery.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

planting out

At this time of year, the combination of warm ground and promise of rain makes for perfect planting conditions.  Plant your perennials and container-grown shrubs now, so that their roots become established before the onset of Winter, which will make for a quicker start in the Spring.

If your perennials are taking over or looking bare through the middle, you can divide them into clumps to re-plant.    Disturbing any plant will be a shock (to the plant, hopefully not to you!) so give it a thorough soaking the day before to minimise root disturbance.  If there is a lot of top growth, cut back the foliage by about a third before you start.  Lift the entire plant and use two forks inserted into the centre so that the backs of the forks are touching each other and the tines are crossing. Now simply pull your forks apart. You will hear some cracking and the roots won’t break cleanly but they will recover.  If you have a particularly large plant you might need to do this more than once.

Refer to this useful guide from the RHS for more detailed information.

NB.  Grasses are the exception here; don’t divide them until the Spring.

seed collecting

If you haven’t already done so, collect the seeds from your perennials and annuals for use next year.

Hardy annuals such as Poppies and Calendula can be re-sown immediately in position.  If you saved the seeds of your sweet peas, particularly the heavily scented Lathyrus Matucana, sow now and put them in a frame for the duration of the winter.

bulbs & gifts

I advise most bulbs to be planted in free-draining soil at approximately two and a half times their own depth.  The exception to this is the Snake’s Head Fritillary (Fritillaria Meleagris) which, although only the size of a hazelnut, is best planted 15-20cm down in damp earth.

Specialist bulbs and Iris Reticulata can be put into pots to be brought right up to the house.  Pot up Paperwhite Narcissus for flowering indoors over Christmas, and Hippeastrum (better known as Amaryllis) make great gifts and provide colour over the winter months.  Do grow the latter in a loam-based compost, as the weight of the flower can topple a pot.

lawn care

Revitalise your lawns now in preparation for the winter ahead.  Start off by controlling moss; you’ll probably have patches under trees or hedges.  Use a moss killer and within two weeks the moss will have died and turned black.  To prevent it from thriving in future, remove the offending branches or lower hedges that have been casting shade and/or improve the drainage.

Rake the surface vigorously to remove the dead moss using a spring-tined lawn rake.  Moss and old grass clippings etc form a layer called thatch, which will hinder drainage and encourages weeds and turf diseases.

Improve drainage by pushing a garden fork into the ground as far as you can, then wiggle it backwards and forwards to make air channels.  Repeat this every foot or so across the lawn.  Brush a sandy top dressing across the surface of the lawn so that it fills the holes – you can buy ready-mixed bags from the garden centres.  To finish, use an autumn lawn fertiliser high in phosphates and potash to help develop strong roots and healthy growth.

things to see & do

If your impression of the Olympic park is one of concrete, tarmac and iron railings, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the 250 acres of parkland being developed.   Of this, 111 acres will cut through the centre embracing meadows, reed beds and woodland to encourage wildlife.  Find out more here.

Follow these beautiful and historic walks in London and the South East published on the National Trust website.

Like bees and honey?  Here’s an excellent article written by Dan Pearson, The Observer’s green-fingered guru, which you might like to read.