October Gardening Tips
I was really fortunate to be able to attend the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in September. It has never been held in the autumn before and it was really great. Exhibitors and visitors alike were just so happy to be back together again. After all, the last Chelsea had taken place in May 2019, nearly two and a half years ago. It was particularly interesting and refreshing to see later flowering plants in evidence in the show gardens. The colours were generally more muted than the pop of spring colour. There were apricot, orange and ochre hues. I found it really inspirational and a great encouragement to plant for a succession of seasons and keep the colour going in my own garden.
To be fair to my plot, I still have a number of roses continuing to flower, in particular the climbers ‘Wollerton Old Hall’ and ‘Simple Life’ and the bush roses ‘Rural England’, ‘Litchfield Angel’, ‘Queen of Sweden’ and ‘Natasha Richardson’. Michaelmas Daisies, Gaura and Gladioli are all still in bloom and the Antirrhinums are holding up too. The hardy Fuchsias are certainly flowering with gusto. So if the frosts stay at bay a little longer, there is still plenty going on amongst the roses and herbaceous perennials. Do use the opportunity to increase your stock of perennials by dividing those that have outgrown their space and have finished flowering.
For some horticultural retail therapy, I am always tempted this time of year by autumnal Chrysanthemums and delicate garden Cyclamen to boost the mood. Not to mention spring flowering bulbs which are ideal to plant now for a great display next year at a fraction of the cost of buying containers of bulbs in the spring.
Visiting flower shows always gives me a nudge to look further forward. And, at the risk of repeating myself all too frequently, autumn is such a wonderful time to plant. Even more so this year because we had that lovely warm spell towards the end of September before the rain arrived. This means the soil is nice and warm and also contains the moisture needed to give plants the very best start. So if you have any gaps in your garden now is the perfect time to plant roses, deciduous trees and shrubs, climbers, fruit trees and bushes – anything hardy can be planted now. Plants that are put in during the autumn really do get off to a much better start than those that are planted in spring.
Your lawn will reward you for a little care now too, by weathering winter in better shape. Increase the height of your mower blades for the final cuts of the year. Scarify by giving the lawn a good rake to remove dead material and encourage the grass to thicken by developing runners and side shoots. Apply an autumn lawn dressing to promote root development and strengthen the grass to withstand the rigours of winter. It is also a good time to sow grass seed or lay turf.
Similarly it is a good time to spend a little time in the vegetable patch in anticipation of next year’s planting. Dig over the area to open up the soil so that air and water may penetrate and incorporate garden compost or composted manure. Do collect fallen leaves from the garden too because, when composted, they make such wonderful leaf mould for mulching.