It’s starting to get cooler and darker. The autumn equinox has passed and the days really are getting noticeably shorter.
Here in Frome the amount of daylight – and growing time for our plants – reduced by almost 2 hours during September. Sunrise at the beginning of this month will be around 7am and the sun will be setting just before 7pm. By the middle of the month we’ll see the sun rise 30 minutes later and set 30 minutes earlier – that’ll be another hour lost. By only the middle of the month!
And the temperature will start to feel decidedly cooler.
The combination of fewer hours of sunlight and the drop in temperature that we associate with October means that, amongst other things, the leaves start to change colour. We wrote about that last year but in short that’s due to less sunlight that results in less chlorophyll production - and the leaves change colour from green to yellow or orange. Alongside that the development of a tough layer of cells within the stalk of each leaf affects the flow of sugars between each leaf and the tree or plant – and that leads to leaves turning different shades of red.
All of that leaf talk reminds me. My mother who has large sycamore trees in her garden will want me to start collecting up the leaves that will fall and cover her borders. Not to miss an opportunity – and whilst sycamore leaves do take longer to break down than some others – we’ll be there with our Stihl blower and will spend ages picking them up………
Here’s our Top Ten jobs for the month:
Pick up the leaves! Well we started talking about that so what did you expect?! We use a combination of a blower and a plastic leaf rake. And of course our hands. We gather all the leaves we can find and take them to our allotment where we have a large chicken wired area and leave them there to decompose and do their thing.
Continue to generally cut back and prune. This is something that always makes us think that the growing season for a lot of our plants really has come to an end. Our perennials have seen better days and seem to be clinging on to whatever warmth and sunlight might come their way. If there's still some architectural structure to our plants and borders then we leave the cutting back for as long as possible - if however it simply looks a mess then the Felcos are out and we prune away.
Divide where you can. We'll take a long hard look at the borders and decide if something has outgrown the space where we planted it or whether we can get several plants to spread amongst the garden or give to family and friends. We have a couple of rhubarb crowns at the allotment. They've come from one crown that was divided a few years back and this year we noticed that the stalks weren't quite as thick as they might have been - that's probably due to the fact that we need to spend more time feeding them and generally looking after them but again they'll benefit from a visit from the sharpened blade of the spade!
Prune your climbing roses. Even if there are still some flowers or buds on your rose then towards the end of the month is the time to start thinking about giving it a good prune. What might seem like a daunting task - depending upon when it was last done - needn't be. We put our thick thornproof gloves on, get the Felcos out and get up our Henchman tripod ladder and start pruning away. Dead and diseased wood first, then we tie in new shoots to the support wires and then snip back two thirds of any flowered side shoots. That's about it. Easy!
Harvest your fruit and nuts. We've already started harvesting our apples from the Katys we have at home and at the allotment and we've already had a crumble from the Bramley. We're also picking and collecting apples from the gardens we work on - with our customers' permission (!) - and either eating them as we work or bringing them home to juice in our cider press. We're doing some remedial work on an apple tree at the moment - we'll write a separate article about that later in the month.
Continue to collect seed. We wrote about this last month and have continued to do that - from our own garden, our allotment and from gardens we've worked on or visited. It's easy to do (have a read of the article we wrote towards the end of September). Failing that get yourself a seed catalogue, make yourself a cup of tea and start making a list of seeds that you want for next year. But be quick. Some seeds are already out of stock.........
Plant out any spring cabbages that you sowed from seed earlier in the year. There's not an awful lot we grow at the allotment over the autumn and winter as we like to give the soil a rest and prepare it for the following season. This year however we're trialling spring cabbage. We've set aside a small part of the plot - on which we've not grown brassicas this year - prepared it by digging some of our locally sourced well rotted manure in - and having firmed the soil Duncan will be going in to his new home shortly!
Protect tender perennials. As the temperature starts to drop and frosts start to feature we need to move those tender plants into a warmer area - a heated greenhouse, porch, conservatory or simply a windowsill. If the plants are in pots then the job is easier than if they're in the soil. Pots can be wrapped in bubble wrap or a fleece and if they're in a part of the garden that's reasonably well protected then they might survive the colder months until spring. If they're not then they might well need to be moved. If they're in the ground then we'd use our border spade to gently lift the plant out of the ground - taking as much of the root ball as we can - then shake off the soil, trim the stems and repot the plant in fresh potting compost. If there are any dead or dying leaves then we'd trim those off too.
A final mow of your lawn and trim of your hedge. With fewer hours of daylight and cooler temperatures new growth for both lawns and hedges will be starting to reduce. It's worth though keeping an eye on the weather and keeping on top of any fresh growth that occurs. We're still mowing lawns and trimming hedges - using our Stihl hedge trimmer and Henchman ladder - well into October.
Renovate and rejuvenate old or tired lawns or create new ones by laying turf. October is a great month to give your tired lawn a boost. We wrote an article this time last year about the benefits of scarifying and aerating your lawn and whilst that might seem like hard work - or good exercise! - your lawn really will benefit from it. If however the lawn is beyond hope then now is a great time to prepare the soil and lay a new one - again that will be excellent exercise!
And that's about it! Despite the occasional mention of some of the kit we use there isn't any tool supplier sponsorship going on and there are of course many other suppliers that make secateurs, ladders and hedge trimmers! You can read about our approach to some of our tools later in the month.
As in September we’ll update you with what we get up to during the month. And as always if you have any questions or would like us to look at what you need to have done in your garden, then we’d be delighted to hear from you.
You can contact us through our facebook page, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07734 365028.