Hints and Tips for October 2020

Potential bird food?

October will probably bring the first frosts and they will precipitate colour change, leaf fall and the sound of blowers that will reverberate in the neighbourhood!  So long as the leaves are disease-free, they can be collected, and will decay to form leaf mould.  Your heap of dead leaves may make a home for hedgehogs, slow-worms and many invertebrates over winter.

Tender plants like Fuchsia, citrus and Brugmansia should be moved indoors or under glass.  Cannas, gladioli, tuberous begonias and dahlias need to be lifted and their tubers/bulbs stored somewhere dry and frost-free.  Salvias can be protected outside with a thick layer of mulch; Penstemmons and Gaura survive better if you leave their stems in place to protect new growth until late spring.

Potatoes, beetroots and turnips can be damaged by frost, but can be harvested and stored indoors (dark and dry).  Pumpkins and squashes need a few days in a warm room to ‘cure’ before storage.

Herbaceous borders need to be reviewed… Cut down old foliage, unless it provides useful seeds or protection for wildlife; divide overcrowded plants, retaining the outside vigorous parts and replant in enriched soil.  Crocosmias, particularly need to be divided every 3 years because, as I have found, their flowering is much diminished if you don’t!  (Cut down the leaves, dig up the whole clump, and replace the fattest corms in improved soil).

By the way, rhubarb that has been in place for five years, needs to be treated in much the same way, retaining the outermost parts to grow on.

Spare plants could contribute to the plant sale during Crondall Open Gardens 2020.

Prepare for next year by planting sweet pea seeds under glass for early flowers.

Plant over-wintering onions and garlic (for garlic, divide the bulbs into cloves and plant the cloves 10cm deep in light soil 3cm deep in heavy soil and 20cm apart)

Sow over-wintering broad beans and tidy strawberry plants, planting runners in a fresh bed to avoid the build-up of disease.

Propagate currants, gooseberries, roses, Cornus, Forsythia and Philadelphus from hardwood cuttings after leaf fall.  As a rough guide, you need to cut 30cm and place in a trench or pot 20cm deep. Some of these plants you would be cutting back anyway to prevent wind-rock.

Places to visit for Autumn Colour

Winkworth Arboretum, National Trust open all year 10am – 6pm except Christmas

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Ampfield, Romsey SO51 OQA

RHS partner garden

Box Hill, near Dorking