Posted 20th Sep 2015
As we move into autumn, temperatures start to drop and things start to slow down in the garden, but there’s still plenty to be getting on with – as we find out in the first part of Scotts Miracle-Gro's gardening diary
Weather-wise, there’s always the chance of the first autumn frost, so keep an eye out and be prepared to protect tender plants to keep them growing. Severe downpours are also possible, but conversely there is also the possibility of lovely sunny weather – even an Indian summer heat wave! Keep an eye on the weather and be prepared to water your plants wherever necessary in dry conditions.
Flower beds & borders
For months of colour from winter to late spring, you can’t beat spring-flowering bulbs. Planting now will reap rich rewards next year, and for many years to come.
September is the main planting month, but you can still plant in October and even November if you don’t get round to it now.
There are lots of different bulbs to choose from, as well as the popular daffodils and tulips, including Chionodoxa (glory of the snow), Crocus, Galanthus (snowdrops), Ipheion, Muscari (grape hyacinths) and Scilla. It’s also a good time to plant lily bulbs for a riot of summer colour.
Always buy top quality, top grade bulbs as they come with their flower buds in place and are guaranteed to flower in their first year – small, cheap bulbs may not.
As these bulbs will give you many years of pleasure, it pays to improve the soil thoroughly before planting. Dig in plenty of organic matter, such as well-rotted manure, compost, planting compost or bulb fibre, and add bonemeal or a controlled-release plant feed to help improve root growth and establishment. Mix in more organic matter with the soil dug out from the planting hole.
If your summer bedding is starting to look scrappy and going over, remove it and replace with winter- and spring-flowering bedding, such as winter-flowering pansies, violas, polyanthus and primulas, wallflowers, sweet William and bellis daisies. It is important to plant these sooner rather than later to give them time to establish before the colder weather arrives. The bigger the plants by the end of autumn, the better they’ll perform.
Some autumn-flowering plants, especially golden rod (Solidago), Michaelmas daisies (Aster) and Phlox, may be attacked by powdery mildew disease at this time of year. If you see the first signs of the telltale symptoms, spray plants with a systemic fungicide. Keep an eye on other susceptible plants, including clematis, roses and verbena.
Cut back the flowering stems of perennials that are fading and dying down. Those that produce attractive seed heads can be kept for winter interest; the seeds are also useful food sources for birds.
Don’t be fooled by autumn showers. No matter how much rainfall your garden receives, your patio pots, planters and hanging baskets may still need to be watered regularly. Always aim to keep the compost evenly moist – not bone dry or waterlogged. Regular feeding with a high potash liquid plant food will help your plants to continue flowering until the first severe frosts.
Once your summer plants are past their best, replant containers with winter heathers, trailing ivies, dwarf evergreen shrubs and spring-flowering bedding plants to ensure great displays through winter and spring. Remember to replenish the compost with fresh and add a controlled-release feed to keep the plants growing and flowering well.
Don’t forget that most spring-flowering bulbs look fantastic when grown in pots and other containers – including dwarf varieties in hanging baskets. It’s easy to pop in a few bulbs when planting up containers for some extra spring flower power!
Autumn is a big time for lawn care, in order to get it back into tip-top shape after the summer, and to get it ready for the onslaught of winter weather and the spring ahead.
The jobs you’ll need to get on with, in order, are:
Clear away fallen leaves
Rake & scarify
For full details on lawn care and the jobs you need to do, visit LoveTheGarden.com.
A summer of heavy use, scalping the grass with a mower set too low and killing weeds and moss can all lead to dead patches and bare areas on the lawn. This is a great time to reseed and repair these areas with new grass seed or a lawn patching kit.
If you intend to sow a new lawn this autumn, prepare the area now, ready to sow the seed later in the month or in October. Dig out all perennial weeds first, add compost or lawn soil and rake flat. Allow the soil to consolidate for two to three weeks, to allow weed seeds to germinate and then clear these away before sowing the grass seed.
Trees, shrubs, roses & climbers
This is also the perfect time to plant all manner of new trees, shrubs, climbers, roses and hedges.
Roses may be showing signs of powdery mildew, blackspot or rose rust. At this time of the year it’s a good idea to pick off all the leaves that are showing disease and dispose of them in the dustbin rather than on the compost heap. Before the end of September spray with a systemic fungicide, and remember to start spraying your roses next year as soon as the first signs of these disfiguring diseases are seen and repeat regularly to keep them at bay.
Shrubs normally pruned hard in the spring – such as buddleia and lavatera – can also be cut back by up to half now, to prevent wind rock and neaten their appearance.
Use plant protection products & biocides safely. Always read the label and product information before use. Pay attention to the risk indications and follow the safety precautions on the label.
For full information on all Scotts Miracle-Gro products, visit lovethegarden.com
By Geoff Hodge