AUTUMN & WINTER IN THE GARDEN
In this rural area we are fortunate to be surrounded by open countryside and the change of seasons is so much more apparent to us than to our urban friends and families. The last of the Swallows and House Martins have, sadly, left us but the Geese arrive in increasing numbers along with the Fieldfares and other migrating birds. The rhythm of agricultural activity accentuates this further as the fields are being harvested, ploughed and re-sown all around us. In these strange times we are living through it is comforting to see some things continue as if Covid-19 had never arrived to disrupt all our lives! There is also a certain comfort and calm to be enjoyed from the seasonal task in our gardens - so here's some ideas to keep you busy.
When cutting back faded herbaceous perennials remember to leave any plants that offer some structure that will still look interesting during the Winter and also give shelter, seeds and berries for the wildlife.
October-November is a good time to plant Onions, Shallots and Garlic. These are all readily available at garden centres or on-line. These kitchen essentials are very easy to grow and once they are in the ground - or even a large pot - need minimum attention until harvesting next June-July. An ideal crop for gardeners with limited space and/or time to devote to the vegetable garden.
Tender perennials like Canna, Coleous, Chocolate Cosmos or Gazannias should be lifted from the border, potted up and put into a cold-frame or greenhouse to protect them from the worst of the Winter weather.
Take hardwood cuttings from shrubs once the leaves have fallen. Buddleia, Philadelphus, Weigela and many others will root in a sheltered patch of ground and can then be lifted and moved to their final position. A great way to increase your stock for free and maybe pass on any extras to friends and family.
Sow Sweet Peas into deep modules or root-trainers. They don't need heat to germinate, just place them in good light perhaps in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse ready to be grown on in the Spring.
It's time for the annual clear out of the greenhouse or poly-tunnel followed by a really good clean to remove unwanted pests. The potting shed and/or tool shed also benefit from a bit of a clear out before Winter. It's perhaps a tedious job but you will feel rather smug and be very glad you did it when you can start with an organised clean space next Spring.
As the risk of strong winds increases particularly in exposed sites it is good to protect taller plants from the effects of wind-rock which can loosen their roots. Shrubs like Buddleias, Lavatera and Roses are especially vulnerable so prune them by about one-third making the cut above a set of healthy buds. Also check any climbing plants and make sure their supports and ties are firmly anchored.
This is a time to enjoy your gardens as they reveal their individual Autumn and Winter beauty and as the weather perhaps keeps us indoors more, take time to research gardening books and on-line resources so you can plan the changes you might like to make next year because a garden is, after all, a thing of beauty and a job for life!