Whether you are clinging on to the hope of an Indian summer or ploughing straight into Autumn, the turn of the season is upon us and it’s time to start getting the BBQ covers back on and preparing the garden for the winter months ahead. We’ve all had a good hot summer; the spouse had a glass of Pimms and fell off the rickety plastic chair, Grandad was found in the garden shed after getting lost looking for his slippers, the kids have kicked a football repeatedly into the same flower bed slowly flattening it and now your Smart Phone’s 32 gigabyte memory is crammed full of garden selfies to relive moments during those dark December evenings.
So with the dark setting in sooner each day we thought we would ask some passionate gardening experts what they had been up to this summer and what they are doing to get the garden in shape for winter. We asked them four questions:
- What has been your biggest achievement this summer?
- What do you look forward to doing in your garden this Autumn?
- What is the most important job to get done before the winter sets in?
- What would you recommend planting at this time of year?
Here are the experts we received answers from:
- Ryan Lewis
- Val Bourne
- Louise Curley
- Alexandra Campbell
- Catherine Howard
- Francine Raymond
- Linda Peppin
- Emma Cooper
- Adam Pasco
- James Alexander-Sinclair
Here is what they had to say…
– What has been your biggest achievement this summer? I moved to my new home at the end of May so creating a small vegetable garden and replanting the front garden in that time was quite an achievement.
– What do you look forward to doing in your garden this autumn? Laying the hedges around my smallholding, planting more hedging and also planting an orchard.
– What is the most important job to get done before winter sets in? Expanding the vegetable garden further, starting the new no-dig beds and building new fox proof pens for the chickens.
– What would you recommend planting at this time of year? Right now I’m planting Spring Cabbage and sowing oriental greens and hardy annuals.
– My greatest achievement has been the flowering of Eryngium Pandanifolium ‘Physic Purple’, a New World Eryngium with huge grey-green rosettes. The tiny flowers are maroon and they smell meaty, so they are attracting tiny flies. Sadly the flowering rosette will die after flowering, but others lie in wait. It resembles a telephone mask, rising to 8 ft , but hasn’t improved the signal to my mobile phone in the wilds of the Cotswolds. Part of the satisfaction is that the best beloved decreed that it would never, ever survive in cold, cold Aston.
– I am looking forward to planting another lot of Viticella Clematis. I planted seven or eight last year, but the exceptionally wet winter of 2013-14 saw them all off. I have ten in pots and they include ‘Little Bas’. As soon as it rains I’ll pop them in.
– Before winter I must pick up the beech leaves so that slugs and snails cannot roost underneath. Last year the leaves came off very late and then heavy rain descended. In spring there were still loads of leaves on the garden and they all came with a free slug. This year they are already dropping though – so I’m primed.
– Planting now – Herbaceous Peonies can be planted now as plants or bare root tubers. If you have some that need dividing, October is the month to get at them. Always position the tuberous roots just below the soil, to a maximum of two inches, and then the cold will initiate the flowers buds. If you have Peonies that are not flowering, the chances are they are planted too deeply.
– What has been your biggest achievement this summer? Managing to write a book whilst maintaining my allotment. It has been hard combining the two, particularly in July when I needed to water my plot most nights.
– What do you look forward to doing in your garden this autumn? Planning my ideas for next year and poring over my seed catalogues.
– What is the most important job to get done before winter sets in? Collecting leaf mould. It’s not possible to buy it but it’s easy to make and free.
– What would you recommend planting at this time of year? Bulbs, especially scented narcissi. It’s not my favourite gardening job but when spring comes I’m always glad I did.
– I think my biggest achievement this summer is that the garden is now 3 years on from a major landscaping re-design. Gardens are never instant, and we couldn’t afford to do complete planting schemes for all the beds, so I have been working my way round the planting bit by bit each summer. And it takes a summer or two for the plants to bed in, and really sing their song. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I feel we are 90% there – the lavender, Kniphofia and a couple of trees are now just what I hoped they’d be.
– I can’t say that I’m looking forward to it, but this autumn I need to deal with the soil quality on the raised veg beds. Since we built them (also three years ago, in the major re-design), my veg yields have been significantly down, and so far, everyone I’ve asked has said ‘improve the soil.’
– I also think it’s time to get an expert tree surgeon in to trim the trees. There are some things an amateur can do, but shaping and keeping trees healthy is not one of them. Sometimes people only get a tree surgeon in to cut trees down, but it’s like dentistry – if you keep trees in good, healthy shape, they’ll keep your garden looking good for decades. And there is a special quality about a mature tree in a garden – you can’t buy the sense of proportion and the ‘texture’ a fully-grown (or even quite old) tree gives to more recent planting.
– Get ahead with half-hardy annuals if you’ve got a potting shed or greenhouse. Sweet peas are much better planted from seed in Autumn, and this year I’ve got some Leonitis Leonorum, or Staircase plant that I’m trying out. This is a counsel of perfection – something I always mean to do, but only actually manage about once every three years. Also it’s a great time to plant perennials as they get a bit of a start: I planted the Kniphofia in September 2012, and although they weren’t great last summer, they’re now well established.
– What has been your biggest achievement this summer? My garden is the ramshackle process of slow reclamation and evolution. I have hunted and hunted for reclaimed bricks that will be sympathetic to the feel of the house and garden and not be too prohibitive in price to buy. Have found them, bought them and had them delivered.
– What do you look forward to doing in your garden this autumn? I cannot wait for my elusive but excellent builder to actually arrive on site and lay the bricks and sort out the levels and the hard landscaping elements.
– What is the most important job to get gone before the winter sets in? Well, it all relates to that building job. I am staving off the pleasure of ordering small perennials in 9cm pots. I also want to order some small fruit trees to put a fence of cordon fruit round my veggie/nursery patch.
– What would you recommend planting at this time of year? Small perennials while the ground is still warm and bulbs too. I can never resist tulips since they are not perennial growers in our soil. It gives a mouthwatering oppo to go for a new colour splash of something different. I tend to eye them up and choose them at the Chelsea Flower Show. I am doing my orders right now.
– What has been your biggest achievement this summer? I think it would have to be managing to keep a range of salads going all season.
– What do you look forward to doing in your garden this autumn? I am looking forward to planting a small rose garden round a swinging seat.
What is the most important job to get done before winter sets in? – For me the most important job is to mow and rake the meadow and mulch all my beds with my compost
What would you recommend planting at this time of year? lots of bulbs, in layers in pots.
– What has been your biggest achievement this summer? I am very proud that we achieved four firsts, four seconds and a third for our produce at our Allotment Association Vegetable and Flower Show. This is our third year exhibiting at the show and there were lots of entries to compete with so we were pleased to do as well as we did.
– What do you look forward to doing in your garden this autumn? I am in the process of moving house so I am looking forward to cutting back overgrown shrubs and selecting material to propagate new plants for my new garden. The apples and pears are looking very inviting at the moment so I’m also looking forward to picking them when they are ready.
– What is the most important job to get done before winter sets in? I will be making sure that I lift any tender plants and protect them from the worst of the weather in our cold greenhouse. I tend to put houseplants out for the summer so they will have to come back into the conservatory for the winter.
– What would you recommend planting at this time of year? It is the ideal time to be planting spring flowering bulbs. All types can be planted now either in the ground or in containers but I would not plant out tulips just yet. It is also the time to plant indoor Hyacinths for flowering at Christmas; make sure you buy prepared bulbs and follow the instructions carefully.
– My biggest achievement this summer has been not going stir-crazy without a garden! I am in the process of buying a house (with a garden), and have been in limbo waiting for that to happen. The autumn looks like it will be far more exciting in terms of gardening.
– Absolutely everything :) It will be so great to get my hands dirty again and to start growing. The new garden will be a blank canvas, so I get to start from scratch. I am looking forward to rescuing plants that my parents have been looking after, and also planting up some edibles that will overwinter and feed us in the spring.
– It’s imperative to protect, or bring inside, anything that won’t survive the winter weather. Whether that means moving things into the greenhouse to protect them from the wet, or wrapping them in fleece to protect them from the frost, it’s one of those jobs that can slip your mind until it’s too late and you’re looking at some very sad plants.
– I like having something growing in the vegetable beds over winter, and now is the time to plant overwintering onions and garlic. You can also sow broad beans, and if you’re feeling adventurous it’s a good time to plant Saffron Corms as well, so you can start harvesting the world’s most expensive spice from your own garden!
– I’ve built a new raised bed as part of my vegetable garden using WoodBlocX , and am delighted with the crops I’ve grown – especially the French beans. Raised beds can be filled with the best quality compost, are free-draining, and the compost warms-up more quickly than the open ground to promote better root and crop growth. My raised beds are also at a convenient height to make sowing, growing and picking crops very easy without bending or kneeling.
– Despite the sadness that the growing season has come to an end, I do enjoy picking a host of crops through autumn. I’ve a succession of apples that ripen through September and October, and these provide juicy, crisp fruits to eat straight from the tree as well as crops to store and eat until Christmas. My greenhouse tomatoes continue cropping well through autumn, but I’ll pick any remaining green fruit once conditions turn really cold in November, and ripen these indoors. Chillies are ripening up nicely too, and can be used fresh or dried and stored for future use. They can also be frozen.
– There are quite a few jobs that it’s useful to get completed before winter. As well as clearing away old crops and summer bedding, chopping down the remains of hardy perennials and emptying pots and baskets, it’s important to plan for spring colour. Once an area has been cleared try and fork it over, mixing in a generous load of home-made compost or manure. Finish by spreading compost over the soil surface as a mulch. Worms will slowly pull this down into the soil below to improve its structure, drainage and fertility.
– Bulb planting continues through autumn, planting spring flowering bulbs like crocus, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips in borders or patio pots. I grow lots of spring bulbs in pots. Some are ‘lasagne planted’ in layers, so you get a succession of flowers from a single pot. You could plant a deep layer of April flowering tulip bulbs at the bottom, covered with compost and a layer of March flowering narcissus, then more compost and a layer of February flowering crocus. This will provide months of colour from a single large patio pot, tub or window box.
– What has been your biggest achievement this summer? Moving house and leaving my garden without screaming (too much)
– What do you look forward to doing in your garden this autumn? Finding a new garden and working out what I am going to do next. A new project is always exciting.
– What is the most important job to get done before winter sets in? Get your bulbs planted – daffodils right now, alliums in October and tulips in November.
– What would you recommend planting at this time of year? See above bulbs – but get yourself organised for the bare root planting season. Order roses, trees and hedging plants for planting this winter. Bare rooted plants establish more easily and are much cheaper than container grown stock.