Now the clocks have gone back, the gardening year is coming to it’s end. Another season has slipped by, and what a season it has been!
We had a great start with superb weather in early Spring, a bit of rain in May, but from then on right up to the end of October we had wall to wall sunshine.
With that we did have problems with watering, but all in all it has been a fantastic year.
If there has been one drawback it’s that the ground has been rock hard – making it very difficult to plant perennials, shrubs and bulbs, but as with every year – you can’t have everything.
Now is a great time to look back over the season, the successes and failures, the triumphs and disappointments.
Perhaps a certain type of basket plant gave you months of pleasure, so before you forget it, jot the name down so you’ll remember come the Spring.
Likewise, if a choice of geranium or begonia struggled for one reason or another, mark that down too so you won’t make the same mistake twice.
A good idea is to take a few photographs of your garden at different times of the year, that will show you just how your plants performed over the season. This is especially helpful in March and April when your bulbs are in full bloom. Come the Autumn when you’re ready to plant new bulbs, it is sometimes difficult to recall just where your original daffodils and tulips are hiding.
A photograph can be invaluable, indicating exactly where you should plant.
Hopefully, you will by now have got your pansies, polyanthus and primroses in – if not, don’t worry too much, there is still time to plant.
The same can be said for bulbs, ideally there should have been in by the end of October, but again, if you’ve been waiting for the rain, go ahead as soon as you can.
This is also the time to grab those secateurs and get deadheading and cutting back.
Most of your herbaceous perennials will already be showing the results of a few hard frosts, the thing to do is cut back any debris – and pop it on your compost heap.
Plants like hostas and paeonies will have all but disappeared, so tidy up any dead or dying foliage.
Ideally you want to try and cut away any old flower heads and foliage , leaving your perennials in neat, tight clumps. Any summer flowering material left to rot over the winter can house diseases and pests, causing your plants to suffer over the dormant season.
This is also the time to take a look at your shrubs and trees. Again, this is the month to begin to prune back any branches or boughs that need to be take back a peg or two. Use a sharp saw and then seal the wound with a product such as “Seal & Heal”. This will stop the rain and cold weather from damaging the tender wood and prevent any fungal disease from getting a hold on the plant during the Winter.
Roses should not be cut back too far in the early Winter, leave the main pruning until the worst of the weather has left us in the Spring. For the time being take the main branches back to around a third. This will tidy the roses up and prevent them from being knocked around by any strong winds, which could rock them around in the soil damaging the root system.
With the winds getting up, clearing up leaves can seem like a never ending battle. But it is worth doing , and not only to make the garden look neat and tidy. Leaves left to rot on grass can really damage the lawn, whilst if they sit on a bed over the Winter they will prevent the air from circulating and create fungal problems.
If you haven’t already got a compost heap, then this is the ideal time to get one going!
With all this vegetation coming off your garden, instead of just throwing it away, recycle it.
You can buy a variety of compost bins, or make one yourself with some old pallets.
Pile your grass cuttings, soft shrub prunings and leaves onto your heap, not forgetting to give it a good turn with a fork.
Don’t let it get too wet, try to remember to turn it every couple of weeks, and if you feel it needs a bit of encouragement, you can use “Garrotta” or another compost accelerator.
There’s no reason that come next season you wont be able to use this compost for a superb, rich organic mulch. It will do your plants a power of good – and it is free!