Garden Advice for Mid-September to Mid-October

Now is the time to move tender plants under cover.  Make sure that you’ve thoroughly checked your plants (and their pots) for pests, before you re-position them in their new home.  Protect your plants from slugs and snails by smearing a ring of petroleum jelly around your pots to act as a barrier.  Make sure it’s wide enough – a couple of inches should do the trick.  Double sided sticky tape will also work, for a time, as the slugs won’t want to cross the sticky surface…make sure that your plants are slug and snail free first though, or you’ll be keeping any slugs and snails trapped in the pot, along with your plants!

Plant spring flowering bulbs and corms, such as Alliums, Daffodils, lilies, scillas, iris, and crocus, now.  If your soil is heavy, place a handful of sharp sand into the planting hole to help prevent the bulb sitting in water during a wet winter.

Avoid planting tulips until November, as by delaying planting you’ll reduce the chance of problems with fungal infections.

If you have a problem with squirrels removing your bulbs, you can protect them using chicken wire.  Plant your bulbs as normal, and cover with soil, then place the wire over the bulbs and cover with more soil.  An excellent squirrel deterrent is economy soap.  Squirrels hate the Stearic acid found in cheap soap, so they’ll avoid the area, as they can’t bear the smell.  Grating the soap increases the surface area, and allows the soap to be easily sprinkled where it’s required.

It is well worth dedicating time and effort to your lawn in September, as any work you do now will benefit your lawn throughout the year.  Rake up fallen leaves from your lawn as soon as possible; it’s especially important to regularly clear the leaves in wet weather, when leaves can stick to the lawn rather than blowing away.  If left in situ, fallen leaves block sunlight from getting to the grass.  Leaves can harbour fungus and disease and when leaves cover and shade the grass, leaves can damage a lawn and prevent areas of grass from growing.

Raking lawns also removes moss and thatch, which if allowed to build up too much, forms a carpet over the grass which heats up and dries out quickly in dry weather.  In wet weather, thatch acts like a sponge absorbing the water preventing it from penetrating through to the soil below.  A moderate amount of thatch is beneficial to the lawn, but removing the excess thatch now, will help you to create a better looking lawn, next year.

It’s the ideal time to aerate your lawn, use either a hollow tine fork, if you have one, or a garden fork.  Really drive the fork into the lawn, and give it a good wiggle back and forth to really ease any compaction, before removing the fork vertically.

After you’ve cleared the leaves, removed the moss and aerated the lawn, you’re ready to sow grass seed in any bare patches (or lay sections of turf, if you prefer).  Firstly, make sure you have selected a grass seed suitable for the type of lawn you want to have, and for the conditions present in your garden.  Store the grass seed in the freezer for a few days before sowing – the sudden change in temperature will help the seed germinate more readily.

If you have, or you’re planning to create a meadow, sow yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) seeds into scarified patches of bare soil now.  Yellow Rattle is hemi-parasitic on grass, it weakens grass a little, which allows other meadow flowers to establish themselves.  Other meadow flowers and seed mixes can be sown now; although on heavy clay soils it is worth delaying sowing these until springtime.

Prune summer fruiting raspberries.  Remove the canes that have already fruited, cutting them back to soil level with secateurs.  Then carefully tie in the new season’s growth to supports, these new canes will provide you with raspberries next year.  Protect yourself by wearing gloves and long sleeves for this job, as it easy to get numerous scratches, many of which appear hours later!

Harvest autumn fruiting raspberries now.

Harvest onions on a warm dry day, when their leaves have turned yellow and started to die back.  Leave the onions for a few days in the sunshine, to ensure they are thoroughly dry, before storing.  Store in a cool, dry, and dark place.  Hang the onions up using net bags or old tights – pop one onion inside the tights – then tie a knot – place another onion inside – tie another knot again to prevent the onions from touching – and repeat.

Mycorrhizal fungi are a UK species of fungi that occur naturally in the soil.  They have a special growing relationship with some plants, and effectively work together to create a stronger, wider reaching root system for the plant; helping the plant to withstand drought and stress. You can purchase a concentrated amount of these beneficial fungi at nurseries and garden centres. They are ideal to use when planting bare root roses, trees, shrubs, fruit trees, and bushes, and now is the ideal time to order these plants.  Bare root plants are lifted and delivered during the dormant period, which varies and depends on the weather, but is usually November to the end of February.

This is a good time to assess and re-evaluate your garden; move any plants that have become too big for their current situation and improve the structure and appearance of the planting.  You may need some help and assistance if you’re moving a big plant or tree.  Use a fork, and always lift as large a root ball as is possible when you’re moving plants.  It’s worth applying some mycorrhizal fungi to help the plant establish its roots in a new position, and stake your plant (if necessary) when re-planting.  Add a mulch of home-made compost (or purchase good quality compost) to enrich the soil, conserve moisture, and help suppress weeds.

It’s often good to have a rearrange, you could improve your garden and enhance the view from your house or flat.  Do take time out for a cup of tea and spend some time evaluating your garden, to check that you’re making the most of your plants and situation.

Take hardwood cuttings of currants and gooseberries.

Plant spring cabbages.

Plant garlic and elephant garlic directly in the ground, now.

On a dry day, when the soil isn’t wet, harvest main-crop beetroot, carrots, and potatoes.

It’s a good time to sow green manures, such as Winter field bean (Vica faba), Vicia sativa (Vetch or winter tares), or Rye (Secale cereal).

Collect seed from perennials and annuals.  Collect your seed around lunchtime on a dry day, to ensure the seed is at its driest.  Many hardy annuals such as Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist), Briza maxima (quaking grass), and Limnanthes douglasii (poached egg plant) can be sown now, for early flowering next year.

Pot up prepared Hyacinths, ready for winter flowering, indoors

Net ponds, before leaf fall.

Look out for snail and slugs eggs under pots, stones, etc, and remove them.  The more eggs you remove now, the less of a snail and slug problem you’ll have next year.

Prune climbing roses, rambling roses, and weeping standards.

Let sunflowers go to seed, to provide extra food for birds.

In the greenhouse: reduce ventilation and humidity levels.  Remove greenhouse shading.

Complete summer pruning of all trained fruit trees.

Lift and store gladiolus corms, for next year.

Continue feeding celeriac and leeks.

This article was first published in the mid-September 2012 edition of The Surrey and Hants News.

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messenger This article was first published in September 2012, in the Messenger  group of newspapers.

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