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October 2015 Newsletter
Both beautiful and busy, October is an active time in the garden – a time of tidying and preparing for the seasons ahead and appreciating the gorgeous turning leaves on the trees.
It’s a great time of year to plant bare rooted trees and perennials while the soil is warm from the summer but the temperatures are not too high to stress the plants. You can plant up your containers too for colourful displays starting from this year and going into spring.
On a good, clear day get your lawn ship-shape for next year by giving it a good treatment of raking, top dressing and aerating. This is the perfect time to give your lawn a good phosphorous-rich feed to encourage the roots to develop strongly overwinter.
And when it’s time to down tools for that well-deserved coffee break, peruse the Unwins autumn catalogue and order some seeds and plants.
Jobs to do now
Now’s an ideal time to get out in the garden and start your bulb-planting in earnest. It’s up to you how and where you plant your spring bulbs, but here are some suggestions of different looks to try.
Plant different varieties in containers – you’ll get a multitude of colour from flowers emerging throughout the spring. Planting in containers means you can move individual pots around to create subtle differences in your overall display.
Plant small bulbs in your winter/spring hanging baskets – pansies and violas will add colour to your hanging baskets in winter and then in spring you can look forward to pretty and dainty narcissi like ‘Tete a tete’ and Muscari armeniacum. All flowering at head height so you can appreciate the small flowers close up.
Create a natural river of daffodils in your lawn. This looks really sophisticated and many top gardeners do this on big estates around the country. Replicate this in your own garden. Simply scatter your bulbs on a length of lawn and plant the bulbs in situ at a depth of around three times the height of the bulb.
If you’ve noticed that some of your garden plants have suffered throughout the summer because the soil is too sandy or conversely to clayey, autumn’s a good time to give your soil a little TLC.
Here’s a guide to improving the soil in flowerbeds the natural way.
First cut back and lift up any perennials and plant temporarily elsewhere in the garden or in containers. Dig over the patch of soil and rake it too so it achieves a crumbly texture.
You can sow green manure crops either by scattering seeds over the vacant site (broadcasting) or sowing the seeds of green manure crops separately. They’ll start to germinate and grow within the month.Dig them in while they’re fresh and green. This allows the breakdown of plant material into humus, releasing nutrients slowly over time.
You can replant your perennials that you temporarily moved back into the bed towards the end of autumn if the soil is not frozen. If it is frozen, wait until the spring until you move your plants back.
Slugs and snails continue to be a problem in October, especially if it’s particularly wet or warm. There are a number of ways you can reduce their numbers. You can use one or a combination of the following methods. Use slug pellets, surround your crops with copper tapes or mats which slugs find repellent, create beer traps or apply a biological control like Nemaslug based on worm-like creatures called nematodes that attack the bodies of underground slugs.
Nematodes are active in soil that is 5-20°c, so apply a nematode solution only in a warm October, and when you can see that the soil has not been touched by frost.
No part of the year need be dull in the garden – winter included. Browse our Unwins catalogue and you’ll see an array of rainbow colours that glean the garden from as early as December.
Make winter hanging baskets for impressive flower-power right through the winter months and into spring.
Just half-fill a basket with container compost, massaging out the large clumps, and place your plug plants gently into position handling the rootballs or the leaves. Avoid pulling at the fragile stems which are prone to damage and can affect flowering.
Add compost into the gaps- firming the soil gently. Water well, especially if it’s a warm October day.
If there’s particular plants that you’ve been impressed with this year, why not introduce them to other parts of your garden. You can increase your stock of perennials by separating the roots.
You can make sure that your perennials keep vibrant and healthy by dividing big established clumps in mid to late September, including plants like Convallaria (lily-of-the-valley), wild primrose , hardy geraniums, and epimediums.
It’s also a great idea if you want to introduce some of your favourite perennials to other parts of the garden that may be looking a bit bare.
Lift the established clump up gently with a fork and shake off any excess soil. With gloves, prize the clump apart into smaller sections. For plants that have tougher roots you might need a hand fork to prize the roots apart.
Replant the new smaller sections about 10-20cm (4-8in) apart, and water well.
Now you have multiple, vigorous plants that will establish their root well over the winter to give a new lease of life to the plants next year.
After that green luscious lawn for your garden? Autumn is a great time to apply some no-nonsense lawn TLC. There’s three jobs you can do with your lawn now that will put it in great stead over the winter and well into next year.
In October mow the lawn - on a low cut if it’s been a warm autumn and a high cut if it’s been particularly cool.
Scarify – This is to remove all the dead grass and other material in the lawn. Over time this material (thatch) builds up and creates an ideal environment for grass diseases to come about. Removing the excess thatch keeps the lawn grass healthy and well-aerated. You can get this thatch up using a rake.
Aerate – Get some air to the grass roots and relieve some of the compaction that causes moss to come about in the lawn. Just get a garden fork and pierce into the lawn at regular intervals.
Top dress – Brush lawn sand into the holes you’ve created from forking the lawn. Lawn sand has a number of beneficial traits. It encourages faster and better roots to form, improves the drainage of lawns – good in particularly wet areas, and lessens the growth of moss with this new improved root environment.
If you have a climbing rose in the garden that has become unruly, now’s a good time to get it back into check, and get some young strong stems appearing that have tons of flower potential.
Firstly remove any dead or diseased wood around the plant and bin it. Next Cut some of the old woody stems right to ground-level. You’re looking to remove stems to leave around 4-6 vigorous young stems growing from the base.
Add lots of bulky compost around the base of the plant, but make sure the compost doesn’t come into direct contact with the stems as this can damage them.
If you can, train these stems to grow horizontally – on a wire or trellis – this encourages the rose to produce more flowering stems rather than leafy stems. If the stems are too rigid and inflexible, cut the stems by about a third which will encourage young pliable stems to appear which can be easily trained from February to grow horizontally.
If you have a pond, it's well worth investing in netting to cover the surface just before leaves start falling in earnest in autumn.
Extra leaves rot to create high-nutrient sludge at the bottom of ponds, which can increase algae levels.#Netting also doubles up as protection against opportunistic cats and herons, keeping your fish well protected.
Any leaves you collect on the net can go straight on the compost heap- a great ingredient to add to compost.
At this time of year, you’ll want to be removing pumps and fountains etc. to give them a good clean after the summer. Once clean, keep them dry and store in a cool, dark place over winter ready for the next season.
Want to add floral colour in winter, or add exuberance to your home at Christmas? Try growing indoor bulbs. They look fantastic in bloom on your table or mantelpiece for festive decoration, or merely to add cheery colour in the dark, winter months.
Bulbs need to go through a period of dormancy (rest) before flowering successfully. You can give them this artificially – leaving them in a cool (and dark – in the case of hyacinths) place for a length of time and then bringing them into the light.
For hyacinths fill a 20cm (8in) pot with bulb compost and insert 3 hyacinth bulbs in triangle formation, so that when filled to the top the tips of the bulbs are showing. Only water if soil is particularly dry. If you leave a gap between the soil level and the top of the pot, you can add some decorative stones on top.
For Hippeastrum (commonly called amaryllis) fill a 10-12cm (4-5 in) pot with bulb compost and insert the bulb so that when filled to the top, half the bulb is showing. Only water if soil is particularly dry. If you leave a gap between the soil level and the top of the pot, you can add some decorative stones on top. Place in a cool place for around 8 weeks and bring into a warm position at the beginning of December.
For daffodils fill a shallow but wide 20cm (8 in) bowl with bulb compost so that bulb tips are just below the surface. You can pack daffodil bulbs close together. Only water if soil is particularly dry.
Place in a cool place for around 8 weeks. Bring into a warm position at the beginning of December. Water well.
Plant of the month - Rose Sunny Sky (‘Korvestavi’)
Awarded Rose of the Year 2016, this hybrid tea rose is ready to plant in autumn or winter of this year, to bloom next season. Sumptuous, many-petalled blooms unfurl throughout the summer for a gorgeous display. Awarded Rose of the Year 2016, this hybrid tea rose is ready to plant in autumn or winter of this year, to bloom next season. Sumptuous, many-petalled blooms unfurl throughout the summer for a gorgeous display. Awarded Rose of the Year 2016, this hybrid tea rose is ready to plant in autumn or winter of this year, to bloom next season. Sumptuous, many-petalled blooms unfurl throughout the summer for a gorgeous display.Awarded the accolade ‘Rose of the Year’ for 2016 this gorgeous hybrid tea rose is not shy in producing lots of many-petalled yellow blooms right through to October. And October is the month when the yellow of the flowers are at their most intense - a kind of swan-song for bringing the summer season to a close.
Being a hybrid tea rose the individual flowers are bold and large and this variety is particularly noted for its fruity fragrance.
Try planting this rose in your herbaceous flower border with yellow-flowered perennials that put on an awesome autumn show. Good companions would include vibrant yellow rudbeckias, sunflowers in shades of orange and lemons, and achilleas.
Height: 90cm (3ft)
Flowering period: June -October
Grey mould (or Botrytis) as it’s otherwise called affects a range of ornamentals and crops in the garden. It’s a disease that can spread quickly especially in high humidity and around cold, wet soils.
Now you are planting your autumn/winter containers in earnest, it’s worth knowing a few measures you can take to avoid grey mould making an appearance or spreading.
Luckily its spread can be avoided by planting correctly and keeping on top of deadheading and removing dying leaves, otherwise called ‘picking over’.
Once you fill in the gaps of your baskets and containers with compost, remove the lowest leaves so no leaves are partially buried by compost.
Water only if the weather is hot and dry, or dry and windy. In winter, many plants do not like their roots being cold and wet, so extra water can cause humidity levels to rise and attract mould.
Throughout the winter try to deadhead withered flowers as often as possible, as well as dying leaves or stems. The dying material makes a perfect breeding ground for mould, so frequent deadheading is well advised.
Create a garden that looks good in all seasons; and at this time of year if you can get your garden looking like a breath-taking sunset, it’s so rewarding.
Here are some top contenders for an autumn extravaganza!:
RHS London Shades of Autumn 23-24 October
The 2015 RHS London Shades of Autumn Show (10am-5pm) is an art and design show celebrating the beauty of autumn colour. The show based at the RHS Horticultural Halls, London will be packed full of inspirational planting ideas to extend the gardening season, with stands providing advice on plants ideal for autumn interest. Highlights include The Shades of Autumn ornamental competition, flower-arranging workshops and expert gardening advice.