As we felt the first flushes of frost this week, many of us are groaning as our Indian summer has finally come to an end and weeks of icy roads, grit and chilblains are upon us. However, it’s not all doom and gloom as although the roads maybe full of the white stuff, our gardens can still bring us oodles of pleasure providing we wrap up warm and take a steaming mug of cocoa with us!
There’s a reason the garden centres are open all year round, aside from Christmas and New year, garden centres will brave the cold understanding that although the summer horticulturists among us may have lost a little interest, the more dedicated of green fingered folk will still be coveting their weekly fix in their greenhouses.
No Rest for the Wicked!
With Halloween becoming a memory, there are still a myriad of jobs to do in the November garden, and donning your best gloves, you can make sure your borders bear flowers all winter long. Now is the time to finish off planting your bulbs, for that spectacular spring display. Plant fruit trees in mild weather for fruity delights next harvest, and take advantage of the disco heathers on offer by giving your dark garden some much needed fluorescent light.
Pull up, Protect and Store
It’s also the best time of year for removing dahlias and gladioli. If shrivelled, keep dahlia bulbs in tepid water overnight before storing for the winter. Gladioli bulbs will dry nicely in a shed, and be protected from frosts ready to grow in the spring.
Rejuvenate those Roses
Be relentless with rose bushes in November, a good pruning is necessary for beautiful blooms in April and May. Plant roses bought from garden centres, and soak up the labels and images as you imagine your rose garden.
In the Pink!
Carnations and pinks will plant easily in November, as will cyclamen giving great colour. Be careful not to over water as these plants hate a wet bed!
Alpines really are a treat this time of year, and many flower soon after the snowdrops. Aubrietia gives wonderful displays and we’ve all felt that first flush of spring when we’ve seen the tiny purple flowers cascading down a neighbour’s wall. Saxifrage, although needing careful handling so as not to disturb the delicate roots will provide miniature pink pompoms on a bed of soft green foliage.
If you’re looking for a little outdoor exercise now is the time to construct an alpine garden, with old rocks, soil, and compost, planting the alpines in cracks and crevices, ready for them to awaken in January and stay all the way throughout the year.
This is one job that is often forgotten, yet the trimming of oxygenating plants is a must if you’re not to have a slimy mess the next year. Leave the foliage of reeds and rushes though, as this will give the water some protection during the winter. Be prepared and place a floating log, or tennis ball in the pond in an attempt to stop it freezing over, and protect with a net if you don’t fancy raking out leaves all winter long!
Autumn is the best time of year for spinning a profit on the plants you own. It’s the season where the garden gives back so much more than you’ve put in. Not only is it the time when we often harvest our home crops, it’s a busy time for splitting plants and collecting the seeds.
By the end of our article you could double or triple your plant bounty and have oodles of spares to swap with friends or to sell at the garden gate. This is a very popular pastime here in North Yorkshire with a lot of the houses around us doing the same.
Here’s what we do to expand our plant collections.
Collect the Seeds
It’s now time to collect the seeds from many bedding plants over the summer. Some gardeners avoid annuals as they obviously die out in winter. By collecting the seeds you can make sure they come back year after year and it takes hardly any effort at all.
• Paper envelopes
• A good eye
Before you change your hanging baskets or pull up faded summer plants check to see if they have seed pods. Most of them will. This year we’ve collected the seed pods from:
• Sweet Peas
We put the seeds in the paper envelopes (plastic can make them sweat) and label them ready for later in the year.
Using a heated propagator we usually start them off under cover between November and January.
It’s not just annuals that offer a seed bounty, many perennials do too such as:
• Many types of daisies
You’ll be surprised by the seeds you find once you take a closer look.
Autumn is the best time for moving or splitting plants. The plants are usually sleeping and so can endure the upheaval.
To split a plant you need:
• String or twine
• Trowel or spade
First, you need to identify that the plant can be split. This involves spreading the leaves to see if there are sections underneath.
The types of plants that can be split now include:
• Those grown from bulbs, Lilies for example
• Grasses, like Chives
• Herbs such as Parsley, Mint and Oregano
Those with a single tap root cannot normally be split.
1) To start, dig up the whole plant ensuring there’s a good soil clearance around it so you don’t damage the roots.
2) Decide how many sections you’d like to split the plant into. If it’s the first time, we recommend just splitting it into two.
3) From the roots, carefully divide the sections, untangling any roots or part of the plant that may be entwined.
4) Plant both sections in new compost and cover with soil. Water well.
There are other ways to multiply plants from runners to root cuttings and grafts. These above are the easiest method for us when enjoying a little time in the autumn sun.
A waterlogged summer has left some of our plants swimming in puddles when we’d usually be worrying about the lack of water. Of course, plants love hydration but too much can cause problems and plants can drown underneath the soil.
The problem with a waterlogged plant is, the damage is often not noticed until it’s too late. On the surface the plant may seem healthy and upright while the roots rot underneath. The first signs are often similar to how a plant behaves when dehydrated. Leaves will wilt and turn colour before the plant dies altogether.
If you were to dig up the plant at this stage you’d find the roots black underneath. There will also be a pungent smell akin to rotting flesh.
Although we can’t help to stop the rain we can give some tips on how to save plants from drowning.
1) Keep it Leaf Free
Fallen leaves in autumn are ideal for keeping the bases of sensitive plants warm but the mulch is known for retaining moisture. If your plants already have problems with drainage, keep the surface of the soil leaf free so as not to exasperate the problem.
2) Make a Tunnel
Sometimes it can be as easy as creating a groove in the flower bed. Create a small groove with a trowel of where you’d like the water to flow to and direct the rain away from your plant.
3) Choose Pots
If a plant is already waterlogged it can be saved. Transfer it to a pot with good drainage and dry compost. You will still need to water the plant occasionally but with a free draining pot, your plant can choose how much it retains.
4) Move Plants
Autumn is the best time to move plants, so if you have some that are suffering in wet conditions you can use this season to move them to higher ground. It’s best to move plants when they’re not in flower and when they’re sleeping.
5) Man Made Hills
You can create man made hills in your garden, even ones a foot high will help rain to wash away. Consider raised beds and rockeries too as this summer rain is due to come back year after year.
6) If You Can’t Beat It…
If your garden really is waterlogged you may want to consider a natural pond. Border plants such as Gunnera thrive in wet conditions and will transform the garden into a tropical paradise.
You can usually save plants from waterlogging without too much expense. If you are planning a garden makeover consider adding some extra drainage.