Gardening Advice for Mid-September to Mid-October

This is such an exciting time of year, with so many beautiful colours in the garden to enjoy, and hopefully a bounteous harvest to look forward to!  There are lots of lovely things that you can do now to make the most of your garden this month, and to ensure that your garden will look better than ever next year!

It’s time to move tender plants under cover.  Make sure that you’ve thoroughly checked over the plants and their pots for pests, before you re-position them in their new home. Protect your plants from slugs and snails by applying a mulch of human or horse hair around your plants and 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 may also work, 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 barricading any slugs and snails in with your plants!

There are so many pretty spring flowering bulbs, corms and tubers you can plant now to provide colour, interest and much needed nectar for insects in the spring.  Alliums, Camassia, Chionodoxa, Crocus, Cyclamen, Eranthis, Eremurus, Erythronium, Fritillarias, Galanthus (Snowdrops) Hyacinths, Iris, Leucojum, Lily, Muscari, Narcissus (daffodils), Ornithogalum, and Scillas, can all be planted now.

If your soil is heavy, place a handful of sharp sand into the hole to help prevent your bulbs sitting in water during a wet winter.  If you have a problem with squirrels removing your bulbs, protect your bulbs using chicken wire: plant your bulbs as normal and cover with soil, then place the wire over the bulbs and cover with more soil.  Another squirrel deterrent is economy soap, squirrels hate Stearic acid which is found in cheap soap and will avoid the area.  Grating the soap increases the surface area and allows you to easily sprinkle it where required.

Mycorrhizal fungi are a UK species of fungi that occur naturally in the soil.  Mycorrhizal fungi have a special growing relationship with some plants, they 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.  Mycorrhizal fungi are ideal to use when planting bare root roses, trees, shrubs, fruit trees, and bushes, and autumn and winter is the ideal time to plant these plants – so make sure you place your orders if you’ve not already done so.

This is a good time to assess and re-evaluate your garden, to move any plants that have become too big for their current situation, and improve the structure and appearance of the planting in your garden.  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 if necessary when re-planting, adding home-made compost, or your own soil improver to enrich the soil.  Water your plant in and then apply a mulch to conserve moisture and help suppress weeds.  It’s often good to have a rearrange, you could improve your garden and the view from your house or flat, so it’s worthwhile taking time out for a cup of tea, to check the view from your window to ensure that you’re making the most of your plants and your garden.

This is the ideal time to add to your plant collections and improve your garden for next year; the soil is still warm and usually moist, providing the perfect conditions to plant out wonderful new shrubs, clematis, perennials, fruit trees and other beautiful plants, which can establish themselves readily now.  When purchasing plants at your local nursery, look for healthy plants grown in peat-free compost, which are ideally suited to both your soil conditions, and the aspect that your garden provides.

If you would like to grow more plants beneficial to bees and other pollinating insects, look out for the ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ Logo when purchasing plants.  This is a good time to sow seeds of single flowered forms of Calendula officinalis, Limnanthes douglasii (poached egg plant), Papaver rhoeas, Nigella damascena, and Centaurea cyanus, these plants provide a valuable source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects.  Limnanthes douglasii is a really beneficial plant to grow, it attracts bees and hoverflies.  Hoverfly larvae feed on aphids, so they are a wonderful insect to encourage into your garden.

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 ahead.  Rake up fallen leaves from your lawn as soon as possible, especially in wet weather; if left in situ the leaves block sunlight from getting to the grass and they can also harbour fungus and disease.  Raking also removes moss and thatch, which if allowed to build up too much, forms a carpet over the grass, heating up and drying out quickly in dry weather.  In wet weather thatch acts like a sponge, absorbing any water and preventing it from penetrating through to the soil below.  A moderate amount of thatch is beneficial to the lawn, but removing the excess now will ensure you enjoy easier mowing and ensure a better looking lawn next year.  For ideas on flowering lawns, please click here.

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.

It’s the perfect time to sow grass seed in any bare patches of lawn, or lay turf.  Make sure that you have selected a grass seed suitable for the type of lawn you want to create, 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 are planning) a meadow, sow yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) seeds into scarified patches of bare soil amongst grasses now.  Yellow Rattle is hemi-parasitic on grass; it weakens grass a little, which allows the other meadow flowers room 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 now; 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 sleeved clothing for this job, as it easy to get numerous scratches, some of which appear hours later otherwise!

Plant elephant garlic, shallots, garlic, and spring cabbages.

Continue watering and feeding celeriac and leeks.

Take hardwood cuttings of currants and gooseberries.

Sow green manures such as winter field bean (Vica faba), vetch or winter tares (Vicia sativa), or rye (Secale cereale).

Sow sweet peas in Rootrainers, or deep pots that allow for the sweet pea’s long roots.

Leave a pile of leaves and logs in an out of the way location for hibernating hedgehogs and other creatures.

Pot up prepared Hyacinths for winter flowering.

Net ponds before leaf fall.

Look out for snail and slug‘s 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.

Enjoy the wonderful light and colours that this time of year brings, and make the most of your garden during this special time of year!

For more gardening advice for September, please click here.

For more gardening advice for October, please click here.

To read the results of my Scented Daffodil Trial, please click here.

If you’re looking to purchase quality daffodil bulbs for the garden or for exhibition use, please click here for a list of suppliers of heritage, garden and exhibition daffodils. 

To see the results of my Slug and Snail Trial and discover the most effective methods to protect your plants from slugs and snails, please click here.

For information on how you can help hedgehogs, please click here.

To find out more about growing pink and oyster mushrooms indoors, please click here.

If you’re looking for ways to protect your plants from slugs and snails, please click here.

For advice on plants that are resistant to slugs and snails, please click here.

If you’re looking to plant some new and exciting plants in your garden this autumn, I hope this article about the latest plant releases helps you, please click here.

If you’re looking for inspiration or ideas for your garden, I hope these photographs from the 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show will inspire you, please click here.

If you’re looking for ways to make gardening easier, please click here.

If you’re gardening on a budget, here’s some tips and advice, please click here.

If you’d like to find out more about Straw Bale Gardening, you might be interested to read my review of Joel Karsten’s book ‘Straw Bale Gardens Complete’, please click here to read my review. 

To read my review of Craig LeHoullier’s book, ‘Epic Tomatoes’, please click here.

If you’re looking for beautiful, important and historic gardens to visit in Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex, please click here.

To read about my Sweet Pea Trial, please click here.

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