Signs of autumn
The signs of autumn are definitely here, have you noticed how the mornings seem much colder and the leaves on the trees are changing colour and starting to fall, plus everything in the garden is starting to look past its best.
Time for a good tidy up, summer bedding has been ripped out of the borders and these have been forked over ready for planting winter flowering violas and pansies in a few weeks time. The young pansy, viola and polyanthus plug plants I had delivered last month have really moved since potting into cell trays.
These grew on in the greenhouse for a few weeks to just get established and then were moved outside to carry on growing. It is surprising how much more growth they seem to put on once moved cooler, plus it keeps the plants short and bushy rather than long and leggy, which can happen if kept under glass too long. Some of the pansies are already starting to bloom and these will be used to fill up any vacant containers.
Not everything has been ripped out – I have kept a few containers in the garden so I still have a little colour. This year I have found that Sunpatiens are really good value, they look as good now in their containers as they have all summer, others are begonia semperflorens and fuchsias, these are still providing me with some welcome colour and should last as long as we are frost free.
The perennial borders are ready to be cut back and tidied ready for winter and any established clumps that are getting overcrowded can be lifted, split into smaller less crowded chunks and replanted. Once all cut back the border will be lightly forked over and a few bulbs will be planted in any large gaps to add some early spring colour. The small lavender plants have flowered well this year despite being freshly planted last autumn, these need cutting back, removing old flowers and trimming bushes to shape to avoid any dead or bare centres appearing in the plants in future years.
Trailing geraniums are looking straggly, but before these are thrown away I have taken some cuttings. These are easy to do, simply cut off a shoot 5-7cm (2-3in) long and cut just below a pair of leaves, remove the lower leaves and any flower buds and insert the cutting into some moist multipurpose compost. I like to put some Perlite on top of the compost as this is white and reflects light back onto the cuttings during these dull autumn days and helps the cuttings root easier. Rooting at this time of year is cost effective as it can be done on the glasshouse staging with no need for any bottom heat.
The tomatoes and cucumbers have finished in the greenhouse and have been removed but the chilli peppers are still producing lots of fruits and look like carrying on doing so for a few more weeks.
After last month’s success at the show with my leeks, these were bought home, given a drink and then cut back to around 15cm (6in) long. The roots were trimmed back and then these short barrels were planted two per 25cm (10in) pot. These have now re-grown new tops and will be kept growing all this year and next and by late summer these will have produced a seed head. I do not want the seed in the head, but I do want the small leek bulbils that will form looking like grass growing out of the head. These will be pulled out of the head next November and rooted for leeks the following year. A long process but one worthwhile if you are looking to produce quality leeks for the show bench.
The allotment is also looking tired, I have already started tidying away the old crops so the ground is clean and bare ready for winter digging. The runner beans have been left as I want to collect a little of my own seed to grow, which is always grown alongside some newly purchased seed each year. I found runner bean Benchmaster very good this year and one I will be growing again.
Carrots have been lifted and put in storage for winter use. Parsnips have been left in the ground for now until they get a frost that will enhance their flavour in our winter meals. My Brussels sprouts have had the lower yellow leaves removed and added to the compost heap and the rest of the winter greens are looking promising.
The few leeks I have left in the ground have been lifted and placed in a trench near the path, making way for a trailer load of mushroom compost to be delivered in a few days time. Once this arrives I will start barrowing it onto the vacant soil in readiness for winter digging over the rest of autumn and winter months; my back is starting to ache just thinking about it…