From a meteorological point of view Autumn is here! It starts 1st September. However from an astronomical point of view is starts a few weeks later on 22nd September. Confusing!
Either way the mornings will start to get darker and the evenings will start slightly earlier. There is though still plenty to do.
1. Pot up tender perennials, such as fuchsias and osteospermum, and bring them inside before temperatures drop. Many tender perennials originate from warmer climates and don’t always do well over a British winter. By potting them on in some free draining compost, keeping an eye on them and not letting them dry out and by keeping them somewhere away from the vagaries of the winter weather these, and your other tender perennials stand a chance of growing again next year.
2. Plant prepared hyacinth bulbs in pots or hyacinth glasses, for fragrant indoor flowers at Christmas. Now is the time to order your treated bulbs so that they can be forced just in time for Christmas. Hyacinths need a certain amount of time to be ready to bloom in time for Christmas. They need several weeks of cool conditions and then sometime in warmer conditions. Exact timings vary according to the cultivar but typically if you allow between 10 and 12 weeks from planting to being in bloom you shouldn’t go far wrong.
3. Rake thatch from lawns, aerate well-trodden areas by spiking with a garden fork, and re-seed bare patches. Now is the time of year to take your spring tined lawn rake and gently start raking out all that dead grass that your lawn more didn’t catch so as to give your lawn a chance to refresh itself. Aerate your lawn by using either a fork, spiked sandals or a special hollow tined tool to make lots of holes in the surface of your lawn. And then mix some suitable seed with some finely sieved soil and gently scatter that over those areas that need it.
4. Order bare-root fruit trees to plant later in autumn or winter. Now is the time of year when specialist nurseries will be starting to offer bare-root fruit trees. You can order them now and when the conditions are right the nurseries will be lifting those new trees and sending them to us. If you want a greater choice of variety or root stock, then buying bare root trees as opposed to those that have been grown in containers is the way to go.
5. Collect fallen leaves to store in a chicken-wire cage or bin bags to make leaf mould. When the leaves are nice and thick on the ground it’s time to rake them up to make some leaf mould. Some leaves take a little longer than others to break down, but all are good. Make a bin by knocking 4 fence posts into the ground, stretch chicken wire between them and the pile the leaves in.
6. Check roses for signs of fungal diseases, such as blackspot, and pick off and destroy all affected leaves. These are leaves that shouldn’t be added to the leaf mould bin. If though you’ve had some blackspot, then you need to clean up thoroughly around the base of your roses and where you can, burn the leaves. If you don’t do that then the spores that affect your roses will remain in the soil over the winter and infect your plants next year.
7. Complete summer pruning of both free-standing and trained apple trees, to encourage good fruiting in future years. The purpose of pruning your trees now as opposed to over the winter is to simply control new growth – especially at the far reaches of your tree – where harvesting in future years might be difficult – and to encourage the formation of those parts of the tree that will bear the fruit – the spurs. If your tree is a tip bearing variety then you shouldn’t prune them now as this will remove the tips that will bear fruit next year.
8. Cut away any leaves covering the fruits of pumpkins and squash to help the skins ripen in the sun. That’s important as the plants continue to sprawl across your plot or pot then the more leaves, they develop the less likely it will be that the sun will be able to shine on your fruit and ripen them. Carefully cut away the leaves and let the squash see the sun. And if your pumpkins or squash are getting large then now might be a good time to make sure they’re adequately supported.
9. Prune out all the fruited canes of summer raspberries, cutting down to the base, and tie in new canes to supports. By now your summer fruiting raspberries will have finished producing their berries. Now you can get your clean and sharp secateurs out and cut those canes that have borne fruit right back down to the base to encourage new growth for next year. And then carefully tie in those new canes that didn’t bear fruit this year to canes or wires to help them stand up to whatever the winter weather has to throw at them.
10. Fill any gaps with late-flowering perennials, such as sedums, to provide nectar for pollinating insects into autumn. Yes, even now and as the weather starts to get cooler we’ll still see – and need to think about – those all-important pollinating insects. Whilst many sedums won’t yet be flowering now is a good time to plant some up – both to fill gaps in your border and to look after those insects.
Give the jobs a go and let us know how you get on.