We know, we know, it’s barely August – why are we already talking about autumn? Well, as all keen gardeners will know – now is exactly the time to talk about it! We caught up with our garden guests Tommy and George to find out a little more about what we should be doing before and during autumn, to keep our outdoor space looking glorious…
There is an old saying – “A gardener’s work is never at an end; it begins with the year and continues to the next.”
However much a gardener yearns for an endless summer, sadly all good things must come to an end, but whilst there is still time to enjoy the bounty of summer colour, and perhaps even the odd bit of sunshine – autumn is waiting in the wings ready to close the show.
And as sad as it may seem after what has been one of the best summers of recent years, I often look at autumn as a “Grand Gardening Finale” and a time to savour the garden. Admittedly the prospect of collecting falling leaves or turning over beds doesn’t quite have the same allure as mowing the lawn followed by a G&T (or three) in the sun; but just like the berry-laden trees of the season, the rewards of autumn are many if you know what to do and where to look!
For the non-gardener autumn may be thought of as merely that awkward transition between summer and winter, for the green-fingered amongst us however, there are a whole host of jobs to be done around the garden and at different times throughout the season.
Keeping busy – early autumn jobs
Divide and conquer! Autumn is the perfect time to start splitting clump forming perennials and grasses. Not only does this technique provide you with free fodder for planting up other areas of the garden, it also helps thin out established beds and helps to improve plant health.
How to split plants
- Using a garden fork uproot the plant by digging around the main root ball
- Gently shake off and remove any soil from the roots (Try the Border Wizard or The Grumpy Gardener Little Digger pictured below)
- Carefully pull the plant in two (some plants/grasses may require a garden knife or lawn-edging blade to part them
- Ensure your newly split plants are planted in well prepared ground and generously watered after planting
- You are now free to cultivate other areas of the garden or even share and swap split perennials with friends or neighbours!
Let there be light! As the days get shorter and darker, set to work injecting light into the garden next year by planting your spring bulbs! Spring bulbs should be planted from late September until December. An easy rule of thumb to follow when planting bulbs is three times the depth of the bulb size. By planting Alliums (pictured below top line) Crocus, Narcissus, Tulips (pictured below bottom image) and Hyacinths you can ensure there is a rush of colour to look forward to in the New Year!
Be prepared! Nothing beats the Boy Scout approach to gardening – safeguard any prize summer specimen plants, container plants or tender blooms from frost early, by bringing them into a garage or greenhouse. Plants such as fuchsias, marguerites and pelargoniums will “over winter” well. Be sure to give them a good drink before bringing them in and remember to water sparingly, just enough to keep the root ball moist throughout the winter.
Be sure to beat the crowds and keep up with gardening trends by watching QVC to see what bevy of bulbs Ken Evans from Plants2Gardens and George from De Jager have selected. George’s glorious voice alone is worth the tuning in for!
Cutting it fine! Don’t miss your chance to say a temporary good bye to possibly my favourite job in the garden – mowing the lawn (Try the Greenworks lawn mower pictured below)! Depending on the weather, mid-autumn – late September-mid October is where we make our final pass on the grass for the year.
- For best results wait for a bright, dry day and mow late in the day once any morning dew has dried up (I find cold, windy days are best)
- If you have an adjustable mower select a middle to higher cut – this will stop you getting clogged up should you encounter a wetter/longer area of lawn
- Use a ‘half-moon’ edging tool too to keep your lawn looking crisp and neat throughout the season
Top tip: this is a perfect time to apply some of Richard Jackson’s Lawn Magic (pictured below) to give your lawn an added boost before the winter months set in. Tune in to Richard Jackson’s Garden on QVC to find out more how it can help your garden.
Making cut backs! Yes I know that’s two dreadful puns! But now really is the time where the garden will benefit from some final pruning and clipping (Langdon’s long reach pruner – pictured below left). Cut back any perennials that have died back and neaten up any hedges or larger shrubs but remember to leave any seed heads or berries for birds and other garden visitors. Carefully prune back roses and tidy up lavender by neatly dead-heading and shaping. (Jennings ratchet secateurs – pictured below right)With a fantastic selection of gardening essentials be sure to watch QVC to find great labour-saving tools and gardening gadgets from The Handy Company.
End of season
Be’leaf’ it or not! But that never-ending deluge of leaves from your own or neighbouring trees can actually be turned into something quite useful. By collecting and bagging up the leaves and storing them in bin liner bags they will break down to form a fine and nutritious ‘leaf mulch.’
- Where possible collect the leaves into garden sacks or liners. This will stop them accumulating and possibly breaking down and damaging areas of lawn or established beds
- Once bagged add a spray of water and store them in a dry shaded part of the garden
- The following year they can be added to the beds and borders as leaf mulch
- Left for two years the leaves will rot down and can be added to borders as soil improver
Top tip: a fantastic way to speed up the process and turn what can be a back-breaking job into something quite fun, is to invest in a leaf blower and vacuum. Thankfully The Handy Company have an array of Leaf Blowers and Vac’s and can be found on the QVC website.
Dare to bare? Bare root plants become available at the end of autumn, as not only a keen gardener but also a landscaper this is the part of the year I get very excited about. Bare root plants are often field grown, this makes for not only a larger but also much hardier plant. If you’re looking for a larger eye-catching specimen shrub or a spectacular centrepiece, then bare root trees and plants are worth waiting for all year long.
Large bare root choices range from humble hedging to brilliant Buxus all the way through to awesome Acers – this is the time of year to bulk up the beds with garden ready plants. Another bonus of bare root plants is that they are often at least a third of the price of a pot grown plant – so fill your boots – or should that be beds!
Although the term is ‘bare root’ you will find that the root ball is tethered by a hessian wrapping. Do not be tempted to remove this as this protects the root ball from exposure and adds weight to the plant. Plant the bare root ball including the hessian into the ground as you would a pot-grown plant.
As with any new introduction to the garden, bare roots should be planted as soon as possible into well prepared ground and watered generously on planting.
Enjoy the show
The turning leaves and foliage of trees and plants provide a horticultural fireworks show to enjoy all autumn long, and with birds and other wildlife busy stock piling for the winter here are a few things to look out for…Maples – while the foliage of most deciduous plants and trees provide a seasonal spectacular at this time of year, for me it is the maple that really steals the show. As the nights creep in their broad leaves and bold array of colours produce a glorious final fanfare for the gardener.
Murmuration of starlings – whether out for a seasonal stroll or watching from the comfort of your home, if you are lucky enough to see this spectacular show of starlings in the thousands it really is a sight to behold. You might even forgive them for monopolising your bird feeders!
Garden visitors and wildlife – if you have ever wondered where that abundance of berries on the trees and hedges disappears to you may want to keep any eye open for some of the wonderful wildlife in the garden at this time of year:
Nuthatch – you won’t miss the Nuthatches stunning blue jacket, rusty under belly and black eye mask as it creeps in and out of the hedges and up and down trees. These bold birds stock pile food throughout the autumn for the leaner winter months.
Gold Crest or Gold Crested Wren – it may be Britain’s smallest bird but it is big on character, with its stunning mohawk of golden head feathers resembling an 80’s punk rocker. They will often be found plucking berries from yew trees or hedges and flitting about on top of sheltered fence panels.
Spotted Woodpecker – a greedy fiend at your bird feeder but well worth stocking up on peanuts for. Unmistakable with its jet black and crimson tail feathers, don’t be alarmed if the spotted woodpecker seems to dominate your peanut feeders as although they are large in size and have a hearty appetite they tend to only focus on larger food i.e. peanuts which the smaller birds struggle with. Worth stocking up on Richard Jackson’s Bird Food to keep the other birds happy!
Jay – love them or hate them they are one of the most striking garden visitors. An eye catching array of colours from chestnut brown through to pearlescent blue they really are a show stopper.
A gardener’s work is never done and autumn’s change of season is a great time to take stock, clean out and prep for the coming winter and the following year. We have been pretty lucky so far this year with a mostly sunny summer, and gardens have been looking fabulous as a result, but the colder weather does not have to mean a dull grey garden.
If you re-plant your pots, containers and tubs now in the autumn, you can achieve a display throughout the autumn and winter seasons. Evergreen shrubs, Hellebore, Cyclamen and winter bedding make great displays, lasting until early spring. Why not pick up this sweet collection De Jager Cool Wave Pansies?
These striking De Jager Drumstick Primroses should add something a bit different to your winter garden too!Mulch beds and herbaceous borders; this improves the texture and structure of the soil and thereby helps your plants to grow stronger the following season. If you have a vegetable patch, mulch your vegetable beds and sow spring onions and oriental leaves, which will ‘overwinter’ and produce an early crop in spring.
Plant your spring flowering bulbs in borders and containers. Narcissus, Alliums and other bulbs can be planted now. Tulip bulbs should be planted in October to November – once the soil temperature has cooled down. The QVC Pick of the Month, this De Jager Peony Tulips Collection offers a choice of two varieties of tulips – either in soft Pastel or festive Carnival. These are top size, top quality bulbs, and will add a beautiful burst of colour in the spring time.
If you have leaf litter, don’t despair, just rake up lawns and borders, to make homemade leaf mould – an excellent soil improver. Make sure you’re still watering container plants, to ensure that they do not dry out. Apply slug bait or any other slug control products at this time
As with most gardening, if you just put in a bit of work now and you will really reap the rewards further down the line.
Take a look at our Garden department for lots more.