Wednesday, 2 November 2016

5 Tips for Gardening in Autumn

Here are my top 5 tips for gardening in the Autumn.

Autumn gardening jobs Tree Fern Dicksonia Antarctica
Tree Fern Dicksonia Antarctica
Photo taken by Pumpkin Becki at Chelsea Physic Gardens, London

1 Move frost tender plants

Living in the South East of England, I don't worry about lifting Dahlia tubers once the first frost has blackened them in the Autumn, I just prune off the dead top and add a good 8-10cm mulch over the soil. I do take the time to wrap tree ferns up in fleece.

Further up country you're going to want to make space in a frost-free place to keep half hardy and tender perennials, including Banana Ensete, Cannas and Fuchsia.

I would also add Banana Musa to that list, as I've never been able to keep one in the garden over-winter, even really wrapped up well. It's so disappointing to find a dead plant when you peel back the fleece in Spring.

2 Clean paths and greenhouses

Algae growth goes into overdrive in October/November while it's still mild, and mornings are misty. Paths can become treacherous to walk on, so take some time now to scrub or jet-wash paths, decks and steps.

3 Aerate Lawns

Over the summer months our lawns take a real battering. We mow them to within an inch of their lives, they get parched and then drowned, we walk on them, pets do their business on them, and in my case the guinea pigs and chickens spend large chunks of time there too. I have two patches that get particularly compacted and in the winter water sits on the surface for hours after a good downpour. Early in the Autumn the ground is usually too dry to be able to improve drainage or relieve compaction, so once there has been a bit of rain and it's soaked in it's worth going over the lawn with a large garden fork at 10-15cm intervals, inserting it down through the turf into the soil (right up to the point where the tines meet the fork's shoulder if you can) and give it a good firm wiggle back and forth to expand the holes as much as possible without actually lifting the turf. Then you can dress the holes with a free-draining mixture of topsoil and sharp sand (aka top dressing), sweeping any excess in with a beesom broom afterwards.

The grass will also appreciate having fallen leaves raked off regularly with a springtine rake, and this will also scarify (scratch) the dead grass and moss out, making the lawn healthier and less springy.

ladybirds sweetcorn Autumn garden jobs
Ladybirds over-wintering in sweetcorn plants
Photo by Pumpkin Becki

4 Don't be too tidy

Wildlife needs somewhere to live over the winter and spring, so make sure you have safe places for them in your garden. Log piles, bundles of canes and hedgerows are idea for insects and birds. Leave stalks and seedheads on plants over winter, they'll look pretty touched by frost and wildlife will make good use of them too.

For even more luxury why not add bug hotels, frog boxes and hedgehog hides in secluded corners. Dragonfli sell a huge range of habitats and identification guides for wildlife, as will your local garden centre and many other online retailers. Or if you're feeling practical, why not have ago at building your own

Autumn garden jobs hedgehog hibernate leaves bonfire
Hedgehog hibernating

5 Always check bonfires for hedgehogs!

I can't reiterate this one too much. This innocent looking pile of leaves behind my Hebe is in fact a hedgehog nest. He's set up home to hibernate over winter, and I discovered him while I was mulching the bed under the front window of my house.

I checked he was okay, and piled some extra leaves on top.

And Special Secret Tip Number 6

Take time to enjoy the changing season and all the delights it brings, the blazing colours, delicate frost patterns on windows, wild birds visiting garden feeders, pumpkins ripening, picking apples from the tree, and pouring over seed catalogues with a cheeky hot chocolate, deciding what to grow next year.

Pumpkin Becki xx

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