Putting Summer Plants ‘to bed’
Summer hanging baskets and pots are beginning to go over now and once the weather starts to cool down, think about those plants that you want to keep over winter and see if you can salvage any…..
Geraniums and fuchsias can be trimmed back and potted up for the winter. Make sure that they are placed somewhere frost-free – a spare bedroom, utility room, conservatory or garage that has some slight heat in the winter. Remember if we get a winter like the last one, an unheated garage will not hold sufficient heat for storing plants that are frost tender.
It’s an ideal time to make a note of what’s done well this year and what hasn’t; and at this point I feel I must mention Busy Lizzies and Downy Mildew; this has been a nuisance over the last couple of years, and it was believed that the mildew was controllable with the fungicides available. Sadly this is obviously not the case, and the only way it will be eradicated is not to plant seed-raised Busy Lizzies for the next few years, and particularly in the same position year after year. The New Guinea types of Impatiens are not affected so will make a suitable alternative, as do the many new varieties of Begonias that are now available.
Begonia corms and Dahlia tubers can be dried off and again stored in a frost-free environment – wrap in newspaper or dry peat, and dust with sulphur before storing.
Autumn Lawn Maintenance
September and October are the ideal months for aerating the lawn with a fork or special tool, following which you should apply an Autumn Lawn Food – I recommend Scott’s – to nourish your lawn through the winter months. Reseed any bare patches. The larvae of the Daddy Long Legs (Crane fly) can become apparent in lawns during August and September; they will attack most soils but in particular damp soils and heavy clays. If you see signs of damage spray with Provado Lawn Grub Killer immediately.
And ready for Christmas Colour…
Buy prepared hyacinth bulbs for Christmas flowering and plant them in bowls using Bulb Compost. The charcoal in the compost will keep the soil sweet. Put in a cool, dark place and bring gradually into the light and warmth once the shoots are approx 3cm high. If you want hyacinths in flower for Christmas, they should be planted by mid-September.
When planting bulbs in containers outside, it’s worth putting in at least two layers of bulbs, slightly staggered one above the other. This will ensure a spectacular display. Plant the bulbs deeply enough to allow you to plant winter and spring bedding on top. Plant spring-flowering bulbs in the garden as soon as possible, so that roots can develop whilst the soil is still warm. The only exceptions to this rule are tulips which can be planted late – into December if you wish.
Fruit and Vegetables
Harvest onions and potatoes now – lift up onions and allow to dry out where they’ve been growing if the weather is fine, before storing. Potatoes should be stored in a cool but frost-free environment; hessian sacks available from garden centres are ideal for this purpose. Continue to pick runner beans and courgettes on a regular basis, so that they don’t become stringy. Pick early apples and pears as they become ripe. Eat the earlier varieties straight away, but the later ripening ones can be stored for later use. Cover autumnfruiting raspberries against birds. The old fruiting canes can be pruned out during the winter months as the autumn varieties fruit on new season’s growth each year. We’ll soon be getting our overwintering onions and shallots in stock, plant them as soon as you can and you’ll get an early maturing crop next year.
Dead head roses, trimming back any very long growths. Remove any foliage with rust or blackspot, making sure you dispose of it rather than putting on the compost heap. Remember to clean up any debris under rose bushes as blackspot will overwinter on this ready to re-infect bushes next year. Rambling roses can be pruned now by cutting out some of the old flowered growths and tying in new growths to take their place.
Clean out greenhouses before putting in overwintering plants and insulate with bubble. Check over heaters ready for the first frosts. As you bring in plants to overwinter watch out for vine weevil larvae, especially on fuchsias. If you do see signs of them, drench the compost with one of the chemicals available for their control.
There’s still time to plant out new shrubs and perennials while it’s mild; the warm, damp soil will help roots get established before harsher winter weather arrives. The warm September sun is sometimes the best in which to enjoy your garden in the last throes of its summer glory…