Posts Tagged ‘gardening advice’

February Gardening Advice

February 1st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

February Gardening Advice

Not even the promise of romance this Valentine’s Day can melt the cold heart of winter. But the sight of a shy hellebore or a solitary crocus might be just the thing to break the ice. This is an unpredictable month, so don’t be in a hurry to sow as before you know it, the weather will have turned for the worse, and your hard work will be ruined. Patience is key.

So, wrap up warm, go outside and enjoy the stillness of winter. A lone robin, a snow-covered allotment, or frozen husks of perennial plants huddled together are unique sights that should be enjoyed.

In the flower garden

Borders

Borders may have suffered over recent months, but now’s the time to prepare them for the warmer months ahead. Cut away last season’s dead perennial foliage, and remove all weeds and fallen debris. Give the area a thick mulch, as this will help suppress weeds. Do not cover perennials, shrubs or protruding bulb shoots, as this will prevent sunlight and warmth reaching them and will encourage the onset of rot.

Whilst in the borders, turn your attention to perennials. If you’ve left their seeded heads for nature, or as something structural to look at over winter, now’s the time to cut them down to base level. Encourage more plants by dividing them with a sharp spade. Think ahead to how you want your summer borders to look.

Grasses

Deciduous varieties will now benefit from being cut back hard with a pair of shears. This may seem drastic, but don’t worry, they will thank you for it. Varieties such as stipa, need nothing more than a good comb. By using your hands and a sensible pair of gloves to prevent cuts, simply drag your fingers through the clump, removing old growth.

February Gardening Advice - Snowdrops

Divide

Snowdrops will now be fading and returning to their green form. Although they will naturally increase in number over time, you can speed up the process by lifting, dividing and re-planting, and now’s the time to do it.

Pruning

This is the month to prune late-flowering clematis. They flower from mid to late summer, and on newly grown stems. Cut back last year’s growth to a strong pair of buds, about 30cm above the ground. Tie them into a support frame, and mulch around the base of the plant. As soon as the temperature starts to rise, they will quickly put on growth.

Prune wisteria by cutting back to three buds, and prune hard on shrubs such as cornus, buddleia and salix.

Pansies and Violas

Keep pansies and violas looking their best by deadheading regularly. This will prevent them from going to seed. Remove fading or diseased blooms by making the cut just above a lower pair of leaves. If you’re growing them in pots or containers, ensure they don’t dry out, but don’t overwater. If you have them in the ground, keep an eye out for pests, such as slugs and snails.

Sweet Peas

Sweet pea seeds can sometimes be challenging to germinate. Leave them overnight in water, or create a tiny hole in the seed so it can take in water. Fill 7cm pots with multi-purpose compost and sow three seeds to a pot. Cover with 2cm of compost, and water. Remember to label your varieties, then place the pots in a greenhouse or cold frame.

February Gardening Advice - Polytunnel

Greenhouse

If you have a heated greenhouse, a polytunnel, or even a well-lit, warm, windowsill, hardy annual and perennial seeds such as cornflower, cosmos and echinacea can now be sown. Overfill a small pot or tray with either seed or multi-purpose compost. Tap the container gently, and brush the excess soil from the rim. Sow your seeds thinly over the surface, and then cover over with a thin layer of compost, or vermiculite. Once labelled, place your container in a couple of inches of water. It’s preferable to let the pot draw the water from the bottom, leaving the seeds undisturbed, as watering from above can easily scatter the seeds, disrupting their growing environment and hampering germination. Place in a bright and warm spot.

Garden Wildlife

Continue to keep bird-feeding stations supplied with food and fresh water. If the weather is too bad to work in, then this might be the time to retreat to the shed and think about building a nest box. Garden birds will soon be looking for nests to hatch their chicks, and installing a nest box will encourage them into your garden.

On the veg patch

Raspberries

Cut autumn fruiting raspberries down to an inch above the ground. Mulch around the raspberry stalks, ensuring you don’t cover them over. If you want a longer growing season, cut only half of your stock down to above the ground. The untouched canes will provide fruit earlier in the season.

Fruit Trees

Although spring will soon be here, there’s still ample time to prune dormant fruit trees and soft fruit. Beyond this, tree sap will be on the rise, and pruning too late could damage the tree. Consider buying bare rootstock varieties, and rhubarb crowns, and plant out.

February Gardening Advice - time to start chitting your potatoes

Chitting

Order your stock! Leave it any later and you may find your favourite variety is no longer available. As soon as your potatoes arrive, place them in a warm, dry area with plenty of sunshine. Stand them upright, egg boxes make a great holder, with their eyes facing upwards. After several weeks they should have healthy shoots.

Sow

With the soil prepared, early varieties of carrot, such as Early Nantes or Amsterdam Forcing can be sown under cloches.

With a cold frame or greenhouse, the following can be sown into plug trays; onions, beetroot, cabbage, leeks, spring onion, lettuce, radishes, and tomatoes. If you sow into large plugs, and thin your seedlings out accordingly, then your young plants can continue to grow on until you’re ready to plant out. This method gives you time to prepare the plot, and also gives the soil an opportunity to warm up.

If you’re hoping to sow seeds, such as carrot, straight into the ground, wait until at least the end of the month. Ideally, warm the allocated plot, by covering the soil for a few weeks with either a cloche, or plastic sheeting. This extra warmth is precious when trying to germinate seeds, such as carrots and parsnips. Remember to stagger your sowing to avoid gluts.

Broad Beans

You can begin sowing broad beans now. As these legumes have a deep root system, ideally you want to sow them in root trainers as they don’t like their roots disturbed. Not only are you providing the best opportunity to grow strong plants, but when you plant out, the roots won’t suffer from stress. Use a good multi-purpose compost, push the seeds down to the depth of 2cm. Water well and place in either a greenhouse or cold frame. They’ll be ready to plant out, come March.

February Gardening Advice - lift and store any parsnips growing over winter

Storage

Check regularly for any damage or decay on any fruit or veg you having been storing over winter. Anything spoilt, remove at once and destroy. Ensure remaining produce is individually spaced to prevent further contamination, and to encourage a good airflow. If you still have parsnips growing, lift and store them. Place carefully into a box, cover with dry sand, and store somewhere cool and out of sunlight.

 

Other Jobs

  • Check houseplants for whitefly and aphids
  • Any remaining bulb plants that have finished blooming can be taken outside, or kept in a greenhouse, to let the foliage die back. However, continue to water and feed amaryllis bulbs, as this may encourage the flower to return late next autumn, or winter.
  • Order seeds, summer plants and plug plants.

10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

January 21st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

Harvesting more from your vegetable garden is a worthy ambition, but just what are the most effective ways to increase productivity? Healthy soil, careful planning, and defending your crops from pests, weeds and weather extremes is the answer, so let’s dig a little deeper.

Read on or watch the video for 10 proven ways to boost productivity in your vegetable garden this growing season.

1. Feed Your Soil

Deep, nutrient-rich soils encourage extensive root systems and strong plants, so nourish your soil with plenty of organic matter such as compost, manure, or leaf mould. Compost and leaf mould can be easily made at home for free, so compost everything you can and put a thriving composting setup at the heart of your garden.

The best time to add most organic matter is in winter, to give enough time for it to become incorporated into the ground before spring. Then, top up with more organic matter during the growing season, laying it 2-5cm (1-2 inches) thick around existing crops. This surface mulch will also help to slow moisture loss and suppress weeds, saving you time watering and weeding.

2. Feed Your Plants

Many plants will benefit from a further boost of organic fertiliser such as liquid seaweed concentrate.

Alternatively, grow a patch of comfrey – next to your compost bin is ideal – and make your own comfrey tea, a potent brew ideal for hungry plants like tomatoes. Cut leaves can also be laid around plants, or added to the compost heap where they will help to speed up decomposition.

 10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

3. Grow in Beds

Convert to a system of permanent beds and minimise wasted space while concentrating your resources. Beds may be accessed from all sides and plants can be grown in blocks which maximises productivity. And because you’ll add organic matter directly to the beds, there’s no wasting it on paths or other unproductive ground.

4. Choose Plants that Thrive

It may seem obvious, but growing what thrives in your soil and climate will result in stronger growth and bigger harvests. For example, warm climates are ideal for growing sweet potatoes and tomatoes. Or in cooler areas, opt for crops like chard and cabbage that can cope with the cold.

Choose varieties that have been bred to thrive in your climate. Early varieties are great for short growing seasons, while heat-tolerant varieties are a must for areas with scorching summer sun.

5. Grow More in the Shade

Increasing productivity means making the most of every space available to you – and that includes shadier areas. They’re great for leafy vegetables such as lettuce or Asian greens, slow growers including leeks and parsnip, plus hardy fruits like blackcurrants and gooseberries. You can use the Mr Fothergill’s Garden Planner to filter crop choices to show only those suitable for growing in the shade.

 10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

6. Collect More Rainwater

Rainwater is the best option for watering vegetables. Rainwater is softer, contains fewer contaminants and is at a pH that is preferred by most plants, encouraging better growth all round. So if you’re still using treated water to irrigate your crops, now’s the time to install additional water barrels and collect as much rainwater as you can. You can use a connector kit to join multiple barrels together.

 

7. Extend the Growing Season

Get familiar with your first and last frost dates, then plan to push your growing season further using plant protection. Cold frames, row covers and cloches enable sowing and planting to begin up to two weeks sooner, while harvests can continue a few weeks longer at the end of the season.

The Garden Planner demonstrates this beautifully. Add crop protection such as a cold frame to your plan. Then bring up the accompanying Plant List, which now displays earlier planting and later harvesting dates for the plants grown under protection.

A permanent structure such as a greenhouse opens up more possibilities, making it easy to enjoy an even earlier start to spring while affording just enough protection for winter-long cropping of, for example, hardy salads.

8. Space Plants Correctly

Be careful to leave enough space between plants – plant too close and your crops will fail to grow properly and be prone to disease, but plant too far apart and you won’t make the most of the space you have. The Garden Planner shows you exactly how many plants may be grown in the area available.

Excellent soil can help you to push the boundaries by growing vegetables a little closer than recommended. Square Foot Gardening takes this to the extreme, with plants spaced up to five times closer. Select the SFG option in the Garden Planner to design your own square foot beds. The planner shows you how many of the selected crop will fit into each square foot.

9. Pair Up Plants

10 Ways to Boost Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

Some plants are mutually beneficial. Grown together they can help to increase overall productivity.

Companion planting takes many forms. For example, lofty corn can be used as a support for climbing beans, while lettuce grown in-between rows of carrot or onion helps to smother weeds while these slower growing crops establish. The Garden Planner takes care of companion planting too. Simply highlight a crop then select the Companion Planting option to display suitable partners in the selection bar.

10. Work to Prevent Pests

Take a preventative approach to pests to stop them in their tracks. For example, place barriers over susceptible plants to protect them from flying insect pests, or reduce a nuisance slug population by removing hiding places such as upturned pots or long grass in and around growing areas. Then every few weeks, head out when slugs are feeding in the evening to pick off and dispose of them by torchlight.

Make room for flowers in the vegetable garden too. Flowers like alyssum, calendula and poached egg plant don’t take up much space and will improve productivity by attracting predators such as hoverflies and ladybirds to control pests including aphids, mites and mealybugs.

Try some – preferably all – of these techniques for yourself and enjoy the boost in productivity you deserve! If you have any of your own tips and tricks for boosting yields in the vegetable garden, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

 

How to Prepare Your Garden Against Frost

November 5th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Temperatures have noticeably dropped over the past few weeks. The garden has gotten close to freezing on a number of occasions, so it’s safe to say the first frosts of winter will be with us any minute. Preparing the garden for the colder months ahead is a wise move to keep overwintering plants and your hard-working soil happy.

Read on or watch the video to discover simple, cost-effective ways to do just that.

Mulch Bare Soil

Leaving soil exposed risks depleting the beneficial life contained within it. Keep the likes of worms, bugs and fungi happy by laying organic matter over the surface before it gets too cold. A layer of  material such as well-rotted compost or manure, spread 1-2in (3-5cm) deep is thick enough to keep soil life fed while nourishing the soil itself, yet thin enough to enable hard frosts to penetrate the soil below, thereby helping to control overwintering pests.

Row Covers at the Ready

Keep row covers or horticultural fleece at the ready.

garden-fleece-and-hoops-are-great-for-protecting-crops-during-colder-months

Store it somewhere dry, ideally neatly rolled up and off the ground out of the way of vermin such as mice.

Dirty polythene covers should be washed down then dried so they’re ready to deploy.

When frost threatens, or if you simply want to extend your cropping period, the row covers can quickly be put into position, held down at the sides with stones, bricks or staples.

Homemade Protection

Don’t forget the many homemade options for cold weather protection. Clear plastic bottles, cut in half, are great for slipping over individual small plants, either outside or as an added layer of warmth inside the greenhouse.

Cold frames can be costly but it’s very easy to make your own. For example, one can be made by securing a rigid piece of polycarbonate onto a simple wooden frame, with hinges at the back to allow for the lid to be opened and closed – very simple, but very effective.

plastic-bottles-are-a-cheap-easy-solution-for-crop-protection-of-individual-plants

Temporary Hoop Houses

Row covers may also be secured onto homemade hoops, making a handy hoop house. A way of achieving this is by using lengths of PVC water pipe secured onto lengths of rebar hammered into the ground and connected at the top by a central ridge of piping. It’s an effective way to keep winter hardy salads and vegetables safe from harsh weather.

 

Protecting Root Crops

Many root crops such as carrots and beetroot can be left in the ground until they’re needed. Some, like parsnips, actively improve with frost, becoming more tender and sweeter.

Lay a mulch of compost, straw, dried leaves or leaf mould about 6 inches (15cm) thick to help keep frosts at bay, but if the ground is likely to freeze solid for weeks on end, dig up your root crops to store them somewhere cool, dry and frost-free.

Protect Containers

In winter the biggest threat to containerised plants like herbs is wet. Persistently wet potting soil can freeze, turning lethal in cold weather. Make sure excess moisture can drain away by lifting up containers onto pot feet. You can use elegant purpose-sold pot feet, or just improvise with stones, for example.

Delicate containers can also crack if potting soil freezes solid and expands. You can stop this happening by wrapping pots up in bubble wrap, burlap or hessian, or look for pots sold as frost-resistant. Sensitive plants and pots can also be moved somewhere more sheltered – against the house for instance, or into a greenhouse.

Garden-fleece-is-great-for-wrapping-up-frost-sensitive-plants-to-protect-and-keep-them-warm

Warmer Greenhouse

Inside a greenhouse it makes more sense to protect individual plants rather than trying to heat up the entire structure. Wrap frost-sensitive plants up in row covers or fleece, or section off an area of the greenhouse and heat this smaller space instead.

Old polystyrene fish boxes are great for insulating smaller plants like winter salad leaves against the worst of the cold. Most already include drainage slots at the corners, so you can fill them with potting soil and plant directly – or just drop trays and pots into the boxes for a snug fit. Cover with fabric or plastic overnight for extra temporary protection on extra-cold nights.

Know Your Frost Date

Knowing when to expect your first frost is important for planning your frost protection. The GrowVeg Garden Planner uses your precise location to anticipate the date when this is likely to occur, so you’re pre-warned and can take action to winter-proof your plot. Check the calender to find your expected first frost date, but don’t forget to keep an eye on the weather forecast too.

Help your plants stay warmer or use the frosts to your advantage. Either way, being prepared will help you to successfully work with winter.

If you have any tips or tricks for getting your garden winter-ready, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

November Gardening Advice

November 1st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

November-gardening-advice-2018

The smell of wood smoke, the crackle of bonfires and the colourful explosion of fireworks means we’re into November. So, get out the woollies, wrap up warm and embrace autumn. Collect conkers, kick-up fallen leaves, light fires and enjoy hearty soups made from your homegrown vegetables.

Although gardens and allotments are starting to wind down, there are still plenty of jobs that need doing which will keep you warm on a chilly day.

But if you don’t fancy venturing out into the dropping temperatures, then kick back and get cosy. This is a good time to take stock, think back to this year’s successes and failures, and consider what you want to grow next year. Draw up lists, make plans, and think ahead.

 

In the flower garden

 

TULIP BULBS

october-is-when-you-can-begin-to-think-about-planting-tulip-daffodil-and-allium-bulbs

Temperatures are on the decline, the ground is starting to feel the chill, and with little threat of tulip fire infection, now is a good time to plant your tulip bulbs. Avoid bulbs that show signs of decay, mould or damage, and plant three times to the depth of the bulb. If you’re planting into a heavy soil, add grit for drainage, as bulbs sat in water w

ill rot. You may want to cover the area with netting or wiring, to prevent mice and squirrels digging them up.

Think ahead to the spring months and the look you’re hoping to achieve. Are you wanting great swathes of tulips, or something in the way of companion planting? Plan and plant.

ROSES

Why not add fresh colour to next spring’s garden by planting roses. Bare root varieties are easier on the pocket than potted plants, and now’s the ideal time for planting. Ensure they are well-watered and thoroughly mulched to prevent frost from damaging the roots.

HEDGES

As we enter the dormant season, this is the ideal time to plant hedgerows and conifers. Before planting, ensure you incorporate plenty of organic matter into the soil. With clay soil, you may also want to add grit for drainage. Winter is a season of storms and high winds, so depending on the hedge, once planted it may need a support, and tying in, just until it establishes itself. Water in well, and mulch.

its-important-to-rake-fallen-autumn-leaves-and-clear-your-lawn-to-prevent-pests-and-other-problems

LAWN

Now’s the time to put away the lawn mower and reach for the rake. At this time of year, leaves will be constantly falling, creating debris on the lawn. By keeping your lawn free of leaves, you’re preventing pests taking shelter, and there’s no chance of damaging your lawn with the ‘browning off’ effect. Finally, if you wake to frosts, try to keep off the lawn, as you could potentially damage it.

 

MAINTENANCE

This is the time to retreat to your sheds and carry out maintenance work. From secateurs to shears, your tools could do with cleaning and sharpening after a season of use. Ensure all lawn mowers have been cleaned, checked, and drain off any fuel. It’s also an ideal time to clean and store pots and seed trays. Try to reduce waste and use less plastic by avoiding buying new pots, and using what you’ve got. Or, you could make your own pots. There are kits available for making biodegradable plant pots that will add a personal touch to your plant growing next season.

If you’re leaving stone or terracotta pots outside over winter, make sure they’re standing on clay feet to raise them off the ground, otherwise a ground frost can damage them and cause them to crack. Being raised also helps drain off excess water.

Pots can be expensive, so protect them as best you can by grouping them all together in the sunniest part of the garden. You could also try wrapping them in bubble wrap.

 

WILDLIFE

If you haven’t done so yet, fill your bird feeders. Ensure they’ve been thoroughly cleaned with warm soapy water, and rinsed.

Put out fresh water for the birds, but try to ensure it doesn’t ice over.

You can also consider building insect hotels. Leave small piles of wood in corners of your garden to allow wildlife somewhere to rest over winter.

On the veg patch

 

BROAD BEANS AND PEAS

If you’re hoping for an early crop next year, then now’s the time to sow. Ensure the ground is enriched with plenty of organic matter. With seeds planted, water in well and cover over with either a cloche or horticultural fleece. Not only will the seeds benefit from the extra warmth, but they’ll be protected from birds and vermin.

Certain crops benefit from a good frost, turning their starches into sugars. Vegetables such as parsnips, swede, and Brussels sprouts will be tastier after a cold spell. If you are lifting these crops on a cold day, make sure you do it with a fork, carefully prising them from the hardened soil.

SPRING CABBAGE

If you’ve sown cabbage seed weeks ago, then they should be healthy young plants by now. With five to six sets of leaves, they’ll be ready to be planted out. Ensure the bed has been well cultivated with plenty of organic matter dug in. Whatever the season, brassicas are hungry plants, so will need all the feeding they can get.

Charlotte potatoes in tyre planters

Plant your plants deep, to just below the first set of leaves, to prevent damage from ‘wind rock’. Water in well and mulch. You may also want to protect your plants with horticultural fleece or cloches.

CHRISTMAS POTATOES

If you’re growing spuds for the big day, then check them regularly. If they’re in grow bags or sacks, try to keep them somewhere, bright, warm and protected. As the stems gather height, ensure you earth them up. Not only will this encourage further tubers, but it will protect them from the chill. Finally, with dampness in the air and fluctuating temperatures, keep an eye out for blight.

GLUE BANDS

Pests will be looking for somewhere to rest up over the next few months, laying eggs and eating tender shoots which can have a devastating effect on fruit trees. Try wrapping glue bands around the trunk base of your apple, pear, cherry and plum trees to stop pests, such as winter moth caterpillars, climbing the trees to lay their eggs.

Other Jobs

Disconnect garden hoses and protect garden taps as frozen water can burst pipes.

Regularly check stored fruit, onions, squashes and potatoes for rot. Disregard any that have been spoilt.

With gardens dying back, you get a real sense of the blueprint of your garden. So, if you’re thinking of doing structural work, such as laying a new path or building a fence, this is a good time to do it.

If you are planning to have a bonfire to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night, then check the wood pile first for any wildlife taking shelter.

If you have any advice of your own for looking after the garden in November, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

October Gardening Advice

October 1st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

october-gardening-advice

The clocks go back later this month, as we wave goodbye to what has been a scorching summer. Now’s the time to enjoy the autumnal colours. From vibrant leaves, to ripe pumpkins, these are precious moments to savour.

And as the wildlife begins storing supplies to sustain them through the colder months, we should do the same. Keep harvesting, and if you can’t eat it, store it. You’ll appreciate it on a cold day when homemade soup is calling.

In the flower garden

BEDDING PLANTS

It’s fair to say that summer bedding plants have had their moment in the sun. However, we can still enjoy colour in our gardens, so think about polyanthus, pansies and primroses.

HARDY ANNUALS

If you’re looking ahead to next spring, then now’s the time to sow hardy annuals. Cosmos, marigolds or cornflowers can either be sown directly into the soil or into seed trays with sieved seed compost.

Place in water-filled tubs, and let the trays soak the water up, as watering overhead will disrupt the soil, and spoil the seed. Place carefully in a warmed greenhouse, and keep an eye on them throughout winter. You can also sow sweet peas in pots, and let them grow on in the greenhouse.

TENDER PLANTS

It’s been a great summer for sun-loving plants. But as the nights draw in, and temperatures begin to drop, this is the time to bring in your tender plants and give them some winter protection. Cannas are not made for colder weather, so find a spot in your greenhouse or shed, where it’s light and frost-free.

Cut away dead flowers or leaves to help prevent rot. For further protection, you may want to consider wrapping them in fleece. Over the colder months, check plants regularly.

october-is-when-you-can-begin-to-think-about-planting-tulip-daffodil-and-allium-bulbs

BULBS

Finally, you can think about planting your tulip, daffodil and allium bulbs. Whether they’re going into pots, containers or the ground, the golden rule is plant them to the depth of three times their height. Ensure the soil is well drained, as sitting in water over winter will increase their chances of rotting, so consider adding grit for drainage.

There is so much you can do with bulbs, whether planting in clumps, individually or among other varieties. If you’re planting in pots, you may want to think about using the ‘lasagne’ method. This is when you take different flower types and layer them one above the other. For example, first to flower would be snowdrops, so they would sit at the top of your ‘lasagne’. The next layer would be crocuses, and so on, until finally, tulips. It’s a great way to get the most from one pot or container, giving you continuous colour throughout the spring.

LIFTING BULBS

If you haven’t done so yet, then now’s the time to lift both dahlia and gladioli bulbs. Once lifted, foliage should be cut back to several cms above the tuber, turned upside down and left to drain for a few days. Once dried, these can be placed somewhere cool, dark and frost free.

its-important-to-rake-fallen-autumn-leaves-and-clear-your-lawn-to-prevent-pests-and-other-problems

FALLEN LEAVES

As the leaves begin to fall, it’s important you keep on top of them and rake them clear from your lawn. Any build-up can harbour pests, stop light getting to your lawn, and create a ‘browning off’ effect. It’s especially important to keep paths and patios leaf-free as with a layer of frost, it can be easy to slip and hurt yourself.

If you’re not placing them on a compost heap, think about creating a wired pen. Leaves make for a great leaf mould, so by leaving them to rot down for six to twelve months, you’ll have free leaf mould which is great for mulching plants. If space is an issue, use bin liners which can be tucked away in small spaces. Make sure you create several small holes in the bags, however, or your leaves will quickly become a bag of badly-smelling slush.

PERENNIALS

By now, they may be looking shabby, but these plants can still offer benefits for winter wildlife. If you’re not going to leave them for the winter, cut the plants back to the base. If they’re summer flowering perennials, this is the time to divide and re-plant, to increase next year’s summer blooms. For protection against dropping temperatures, ensure you mulch around the plant. Don’t cover them over, or touch the stems, as this will encourage rot.

On the veg patch

FRUIT

This will be the final opportunity to harvest the last of your tree fruit, such as apples and pears. What isn’t going to be used straight away, can be stored. Ideally use slatted shelves or boxes, and place the fruit carefully on them. Check that each fruit is not bruised or damaged, and try not to let it rest on another fruit. Place in a frost-free, dark, but well-ventilated cool room, such as a larder or cellar. Check regularly, and remove any fruit that has spoilt.

Now’s the time to lift and divide rhubarb crowns. Using a sharp spade, divide the crown, ensuring each section contains at least one growing point. Re-plant in well drained, fertile soil, ensuring each crown is well spaced.

october-is-the-best-time-to-plant-your-garlic-bulbs

GARLIC

Garlic needs a good cold period to help develop its cloves, so now’s the time to plant it. Don’t be tempted to use bulbs from a supermarket as they may harbour disease. Instead, buy them from a garden centre or online supplier.

In well-drained, fertile soil, place the individual cloves at 20cm apart, in rows 30cms apart. The cloves tips should be all you see of the garlic. You may want to cover over with either a fleece or netting, just to stop birds from pulling them up.

HERBS

Herbs, such as basil, parsley and coriander are not frost hardy. Therefore, pot them up and bring inside. Placing on a well-lit windowsill, should keep them happy over winter.

GREENHOUSE

If you’re hoping to use your greenhouse over the colder months, but an electric heater is not an option, then consider insulating it with bubble wrap. It’s a cheaper option which won’t reduce the light entering your structure. As the days get colder, make sure doors and vents are kept closed and any damaged panels are quickly repaired.

SOIL

If you’re leaving vegetable beds empty over winter, turn the soil. This will not only get air into the soil, but will expose hiding pests. You can also add a thick layer of well-rotted manure, or compost. Over winter, the worms and weather will help break it down, and integrate it into your bed.

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Other Jobs

If you’ve had houseplants outside, now’s the time to bring them back inside. Ideally, let them slowly acclimatise to the indoor heat, otherwise, the shock may damage them.

With boilers and central heating starting to kick in, keep house plants away from direct heat sources. Place them in a draught free area which is cool but with good light.

As this is the month of Halloween, it’s time to carve your pumpkins! This is a great opportunity to get children involved with the allotment or growing patch. Not only will they have seen the pumpkin grow from seed, but they’ll get to harvest and enjoy it. Make sure you don’t waste the flesh though; pumpkins make tasty autumn soups and risottos!