With the days getting shorter and cold weather beginning to draw in, September is the final opportunity for many gardening jobs including outdoor sowings of crops, such as mizuna, mustard and rocket
Take inspiration from the RHS with these easy-to-follow tips for effortless autumn gardening
If you haven’t already done so, you should also think about sowing a suitable lettuce cultivar, such as ‘Valdor’, for overwintering in a cold frame for early cutting next spring. But the jobs do not stop there.Below is the RHS guide to gardening at this time of year: an ideal walkthrough for gardeners looking for easy and quick tips for brilliant lawns, bulbs and flowers in autumn.
Ten gardening jobs to do in autumn Divide perennials Perennial is the term given to plants that live more than two years, which, in turn, means that they require a little extra care to ensure that they are healthy and vigorous year after year.Most perennials benefit from division every two years but this can be done more regularly. They can be divided successfully at almost any time as long as they are kept well-watered afterwards. But it is best to wait until the plants are not in active growth.
This means that in autumn you should be dividing summer-flowering plants when the soil is dry enough to work.To divide a perennial, gently dig up the parent plant using a fork before easing it out of the ground. Shake off the excess soil and carefully pull to tease the roots apart with your hands. headtopics.com
Larger, fibrous-rooted perennials might require some more encouragement with the use of a sharp knife or axe. These can then be replanted and is an easy way of multiplying your plants and maximising coverage without a trip to the garden centre.Clean out the greenhouse If you are growing all year round plants, such as orchids, in your greenhouse then it is important to clean during mild autumn spells. This will allow for the best light transmission as winter approaches.
It is also best to clean greenhouses now if you are raising seedlings as it will allow you to give the space a spruce up in between crops.Pick autumn raspberries There are two main types of raspberries – summer-fruiting and autumn-fruiting. Autumn raspberries are generally smaller and produce a crop from late August to October, often continuing until the first frosts.
Raspberries should be harvested regularly, to get fruits at the peak of ripeness, when richly coloured, plump and easy to pull off - this is particularly important if your crop isn't covered or protected from birds.There are many ways to enjoy your crop which can be eaten fresh, frozen or made into preserves.
Collect and sow seeds Seed can be saved from almost any type of plant including shrubs, perennials, annuals and bulbous plants. They come in all different forms such as berries, catkins, cones and nuts, which should be collected as the seedheads ripen. headtopics.com
Some seeds, such as hellebore, are best sown immediately as storage can reduce their viability and autumn is a good time to plant them.One top tip is that it is best to take seed from plants you know to be healthy and robust, which should help ensure good quality offspring.
Dig up potatoes Potatoes are a huge staple in most people's diets. Maincrop varieties, which are in the ground a lot longer than others, should be harvested from late August through to October.Maincrops produce a larger harvest and bigger potatoes. Although a relatively hardy crop, potatoes can suffer from a range of blights including rot, scab and blackleg - so it is important to get your timings right.
Clean out ponds Late autumn, when the weather has turned colder and creatures are less active, is the best time to clean out a pond. Generally, only light titivation will be required but small ponds should be given a complete overhaul every five years.
In this instance, it is best to slowly drain water from the pond using a pump, before scooping out any fish or plants and placing them in a holding tank filled with water.You can then scoop up excess silt from the base and scrub the liner with a brush. Refill the pond with rainwater and gently return your plants and fish to their home. headtopics.com
Experts also advise putting netting over the top of your pond in autumn before leaves start to fall.Cover leafy vegetable crops This seems pretty self-explanatory but in order to protect your crops from birds, it is best to cover them with netting.Pigeons are particularly big fans of brassicas (cabbages) and will tear the leaves until only the stalks remain, unless there is an obstacle in their way.
Keep watering new plants It may seem excessive given the usual state of the British weather but it is important to continue watering new plants even as we approach the colder months.Plants are most vulnerable to shortages of water when they are first planted because their roots have not yet had time to establish themselves into the deeper, moister layers of soil.
Rainwater is best for plants as it often has a lower pH but grey water - domestic wastewater from kitchens, baths and sinks, for example - can also be used. Household soaps are harmless to plants, but be more wary of water containing stronger substances such as bleaches and disinfectants.
Reduce the frequency of house plant watering House plants need less water during autumn and winter as they experience a slower rate of growth during colder months - with some even turning dormant during this period.With this in mind, indoor plants no longer need to be kept as hydrated and instead constant over-watering can cause damage including root rot.
That being said, it is important to keep in mind that different plants have different water needs.Plant spring flowering bulbs For the widest choice and best quality, buy spring-flowering bulbs, such as daffodils, crocus and hyacinths, as soon as possible - but tulips can be purchased in November.
The most important tip to remember is don’t delay planting and do so typically three or four times the depth of the bulb.When to harvest fruit The correct time to harvest apples and pears can be a bit of a puzzle, even to experienced gardeners. It will depend partly on the cultivar and partly on the weather, but should always be completed before the first frosts and when the fruit is dry. It is unlikely that all fruit on a tree will ripen evenly, so you may need to pick in stages.
If otherwise sound-looking cooking apples start falling off the tree, pick promptly. For dessert apples, pre-empt this by checking on a weekly basis. When cupped in the hand, a ripe apple should come away from the tree with just a gentle twisting action and be sweet but firm to the bite. If you plan to store your apples, pick them slightly underripe. Store them in a cool location, ideally around 2.5-4.5C (36-38F).
Pears are more difficult in that they need to be picked while hard but with some developing sweetness. Again, check regularly and keep a note of the picking date for future reference. Store in slightly cooler conditions than for apples.Pick quince when golden-coloured and aromatic. Store for six to eight weeks before use. Medlars should be picked as late as possible and stored until the flesh softens and turns brown.
Useful kit Even with dwarfing rootstocks, most fruit trees grow too high to pick from the ground. If you want to avoid working from ladders, a fruit picker is a godsend.One of the best is from the Wolf-Garten multi-change range. The picker basket (£19.99) has a built-in blade to cut tough stalks. It needs to be attached to a Wolf-Garten telescopic handle; this can be used with other attachments. Although not cheap, it has a 10-year warranty.
Plant of the month Magnolia grandiflora ‘Kay Parris’ ‘Kay Parris’ is a compact cultivar of Magnolia grandiflora originating from a chance cross on a nursery in South Carolina in 1991.It’s better than any of the competition. The beautiful, large, white, scented flowers up to 10in (25cm) across are borne from an early age. They open from midsummer and continue into the autumn.Read more: The Telegraph »
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