Posts Tagged ‘vegetable patch’

February Gardening Advice

February 1st, 2020 | News | 0 Comments

It’s hard to believe that next month we’ll be greeting spring with open arms. However, winter’s not ready to give up the season without a fight. This month can quite often be the coldest of the year, so don’t be seduced into thinking you should immediately start sowing outside. This is a time of patience, planning and preparing.

Whilst you can, take the time to enjoy February’s offerings. Whether it’s a winter hellebore, primrose or the early arrival of a golden daffodil, these blooms are short-lived and should be celebrated. It’s a moment of calm, stillness and looking ahead to a fruitful growing season.

In the flower garden

Snowdrops

Now’s the moment to lift, divide and re-plant snowdrops. Over the years, they will naturally increase and spread. However, a gardener’s intervention can result in larger displays, without such a lengthy wait. With the flowers past their best, and returned to their ‘green state’, this task can be done without risking harm to the clump.

Perennials

Before spring kicks in and plants begin putting on new growth, divide established perennial plants in your herbaceous borders. After several seasons, these plants will have filled their planting area and become over-crowded. By dividing them, you’re not only keeping the original plant healthy, but gaining several new plants at no extra financial cost. Quite often a sharp spade is the best way to divide them. Think about how you want your border to look this summer, and re-plant accordingly.

Shrubs that have just finished flowering, such as witch hazel, can be pruned. Prune hard on shrubs such as cornus, buddleia and salix. Also, prune wisteria by cutting back to just above three buds. Providing the soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged, shrubs can be dug-up and moved to a new growing position. Ensure you plant in well, water, and give the shrub a good mulch.

Borders

A garden pitch fork dug in the ground into some mulch and soil

Remove all weeds and fallen debris and cut away last season’s dead perennial foliage. Finally mulch the area, ideally to the depth of six inches, as this will help suppress weeds. Be careful not to cover perennials, shrubs or protruding bulb shoots as this will prevent the sunlight and warmth reaching them and could encourage rot. By doing this now, not only are you smartening up your growing area, but the mulch will eventually breakdown into the soil. This will help improve structure and ensure you start spring will healthy borders.

Grasses

As winter begins to retreat, ornamental grasses will start to look a little ragged. Deciduous varieties should be cut back hard with a pair of shears to avoid any new green growth. This may seem drastic but don’t worry, they’ll 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.

Greenhouse

If you have a heated greenhouse, polytunnel, or a well-lit, warm, windowsill, you could set about sowing hardy annual and perennial seeds. Cornflower, cosmos and french marigolds can now be sown.

Fill a seed tray or 9cm pot with seed or multi-purpose compost. Once filled, tap down the container gently, and brush the excess soil from the rim. Sow your seeds thinly over the surface, and cover over with a thin layer of compost or vermiculite. Label sown seeds and place 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 – watering from above can easily scatter the seeds and hamper germination. Finally, place in a bright and warm spot. Check every few days for germination, and ensure soil remains moist.

Pansies and violas surrounded by green foliage in autumn/winter

Pansies and violas

To keep pansies and violas looking their best, and continue providing well-needed colour during these winter months, regular deadheading is key. If you let plants go to seed, they will stop producing blooms. Remove fading or diseased blooms, 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.

Clematis

You can prune late flowering Clematis, Prune Group 3 (for definitions of each group, visit the RHS website), they flower from mid to late summer on newly grown stems. Cut back last year’s growth down to a strong pair of buds, about 30cm above the ground. Spread out the stems, tie them into a support frame and mulch around the base of the plant. Once spring temperatures start to rise, they will quickly put on new growth.

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, so why not help bring birdlife into your garden and install a nest box.

On the veg patch

Raspberries

A gardener's hand pruning raspberry stalks with a pair of secateurs

Cut all autumn fruiting varieties 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.

Plant bare-root varieties can be bought and planted out. Planted summer varieties should be cut down to ten inches, whilst autumn varieties should be cut down to an inch above the soil. Ensure all canes get a heavy mulch.

Fruit trees

There’s still time to prune your fruit trees and soft fruit, such as gooseberries, as they’re still dormant. Beyond this, tree sap will be on the rise, so pruning too late might create a seeping wound, thus damaging the tree. Consider buying bare rootstock varieties, rhubarb crowns, and plant out.

Chitting

By now, ordered seed potatoes should be arriving in the post, whilst tubs of chitting potatoes will be sat in garden nurseries waiting to go to new homes. Once you’ve bought your varieties, it’s important to start chitting. Sit them in containers – empty eggboxes are ideal – ensure they aren’t touching one another and their eyes are looking skyward. The potatoes should be placed in a cool, light, warm area – windowsills and conservatories are ideal.  Six weeks from now, they should be ready for planting out.

Sow

If you have a cold frame or greenhouse with a heat source, consider sowing onions, beetroot, cabbage, leeks, spring onion, lettuce and radishes. 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 will not only give you the time to prepare the plot, but give the soil an opportunity to warm up in the early spring weather. Bear in mind, it’s still a low winter sun, so light levels can make plants leggy.

Gardener's hands sowing seeds into a black seed tray with modules full of soil

Early varieties of peas and beans can be sown indoors. As 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.

If you’re hoping to sow seeds, such as carrot, straight into the ground, wait until at least the end of the month and try to do it on a frost-free sunny day. Warm the allocated plot by covering over a few weeks before sowing with either cloche or fleece. This extra warmth will help seed germination. Stagger your sowing, otherwise months from now you may find yourself with a glut.

Parsnips

If you still have parsnips growing, lift and store. Beyond February, these tapered roots will start sprouting and their taste could become woody. Place carefully into a box, cover with dry sand, and store somewhere cool and out of sunlight.

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 good airflow.

Other jobs

  • Continue to water and feed any amaryllis bulbs, as this may encourage the flower to return late next autumn or winter.
  • Trim hedges before birds begin nesting.
  • With little growth in the garden, you can clearly see its structure, giving you a clear blueprint of the space. Repair any structures, fencing or stonework. Create new beds, water features or raised vegetable beds.

January Gardening Advice

January 1st, 2020 | News | 0 Comments

A blank notepad on a wooden table with seeds in envelopes, handheld garden tools and small pots

With Christmas now but a distant memory, it’s time to pack away the decorations and embrace the year ahead. But whilst you make those New Year’s resolutions it’s also the moment, preferably in front of a warm fire, to write up your plant wishlist for the growing season ahead. What are you hoping to grow, eat and bloom in your gardens and allotments? Draw blueprints of your growing area, assign plants to each bed, make changes, start again – it doesn’t matter, this is the fun stuff. Being creative and getting excited by your ideas is all part of the gardening journey. However, if you need inspiration, go online, read gardening blogs or flick through seed catalogues.

If you’re new to gardening and fancy making a long-term commitment, then now’s the time to get yourself signed up to the local allotment. Not only will this open up a whole new world of growing opportunities, but it’s a great place to meet fellow gardeners and be part of a community. These are growers that know the lay of the land, can offer free advice and even seed swap.

Whilst winter does it worst, take comfort in knowing that the days now are only going to get longer. So, embrace this quiet time and look forward to an exciting growing season.

In the flower garden

Garden mulch made from old Christmas tree chippings and needlesMulch

Although Christmas is over, there’s still plenty of value left in your exhausted Christmas tree. If shredded, this makes an excellent mulch for ericaceous plants such as blueberries, or consider using the chippings to create allotment or garden paths. If not chipped, the long spiky branches can be used as plant supports for peas and broad beans in the spring season.

Tidy up

Make way for new growth by cutting down and tidying up flower borders. Ensure you do not cut into new growth as not only will you lose vital young shoots, but an exposed wound will be open to the elements which could potentially kill the plant. Remove fallen foliage from beds as it could be protecting garden pests.

If ornamental grasses are looking shabby then, using gloves, comb your fingers through the stems to remove dying and unwanted leaves. Cutting back to the ground should ideally be done in early spring.

Before hellebores come into their own, cut away old leaves. Not only are you making way for the new blooms but much of the old foliage, with its black blotches, will look unattractive and can hold hellebore leaf spot.

Pansies

Winter pansies may now be struggling to look their best and may need a helping hand to prevent them from going to seed. Prune regularly, removing any dying blooms.

Lawn

If you can, keep off the grass. The freezing weather combined with your weight can cause permanent damage to your prized lawn.

Water supply

Frozen water can expand, forcing taps and pipes to burst. Therefore, protect external taps and pipes from frost. If you can, turn off the external water supply altogether.

Snow

A garden greenhouse with snow on the roofWith the prospect of snow more likely this month, it’s important to brush fallen snow from greenhouses, cloches, fruit cages and cold frames. The extra weight can break the glass, plus the plants inside need all the warmth and light they can get. Remove snow from delicate evergreens and tree branches to prevent damage.

Greenhouse

A heat supply in your greenhouse will give you the advantage of making early sowings for plants such as sweet pea and aquilegia. If you’ve been growing sweet pea since last autumn then pinch out the tips, as this will encourage side-shoots and result in a bushier plant.

Storage

Any fruit or veg currently in storage should be checked regularly to ensure they haven’t spoilt. Turn them over and remove any decaying or damaged produce. Ensure they aren’t touching to encourage a good air supply around them.

Snowdrops

If you planted snowdrop bulbs last autumn, you may see their delicate little heads rearing themselves from the hardened, snow-covered ground this month. Not only a beautiful sight, but it’s a welcome indication to gardeners that the garden is slowly starting to stir from its winter slumber.

Garden wildlife

Ensure all bird feeding stations are topped up and water supplies are changed regularly and not left to freeze. If you have a fish pond, avoid smashing the ice if it freezes over as this can shock, or even kill, the fish. Instead, try to melt the ice gently with hot water. Don’t worry about harming the fish, as they tend to remain at the bottom of the pond during the winter months.

On the veg patch

A bunch of freshly lifted leeks laid out on the soilWinter veg

Continue to harvest veg such as swede, parsnips, carrots, winter brassicas, leeks and artichokes. Ensure any yellowing brassica leaves are removed as they could be hiding pests. As beds become bare, turn over the soil and add a thick layer of well-rotted manure or compost. You should aim to get all of your winter digging done by the end of this month – this will ensure your mulch has enough time to breakdown and work into the soil.

Seed potatoes

Most suppliers are already delivering stock to customers. If you leave it too late, you could run the risk of your chosen varieties being unavailable. Get them ordered now, and you could be chitting your first earlies by the end of the month.

Stand the tubers apart – egg boxes make ideal holders – with their eyes facing upwards. Place somewhere warm, dry and with plenty of sunshine, such as a kitchen windowsill, porch or warm greenhouse. Try to keep sprouts down to three maybe four so the energy isn’t too dispersed, thus producing weaker shoots. Six weeks on and tubers should be ready for planting out.

Onions

If you have a heat supply in your polytunnel or greenhouse, consider sowing onion seeds. They will need that extra protection, but by giving them an extended growing season the end result will be worth it and you could be harvesting onions a few weeks earlier.

Chillies and peppers

These crops need a long growing season, so get sowing now. With so many varieties to choose from, growing these fruits has never been so popular. The seeds can be grown in modules, pots or trays to the depth of 6mm, on a warm windowsill or seedling heat mat. Although germination can be slow, once their true leaves have been revealed it’s important to pot them up. Keep them warm, lit and well-watered.

Fruit

Three upturned clay pots in a row in a winter garden, being used to force rhubarbBy forcing rhubarb now, you’re simply speeding up its growth for an earlier harvest and sweeter stems. As soon as new growth appears from the crown, cover the plant over with a rhubarb forcer or container, excluding all light. Eight weeks on, the stalks should be 20-30cm long, and ready to harvest.

Apple and pear trees are still dormant and can be pruned. When pruning, keep in mind the three ‘Ds’. Dead, diseased and damaged. Anything that falls under these categories should be removed. Bare rootstock varieties can be bought and planted out. Gooseberries and currants can also be pruned, whilst autumn fruiting raspberries can be cut down to just above the surface. As they have a shallow root system, consider mulching around the canes to protect the roots from winter weather.

Continue to ensure all trees, fruit canes and climbers are staked and tied-in, thus avoiding wind-rock and potential winter damage.

Other jobs

  • While it’s cold outside, the heating systems in homes is constant. Ensure your indoor plants aren’t in direct line to heat sources, such as open fires and radiators.
  • Check your indoor plants for any signs of scale insects and mealybugs.
  • Order seed catalogues.

December Gardening Advice

December 2nd, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Two pale green enamel mugs containing mulled wine, orange slices and star anise

The smell of a winter spruce, the warming taste of a spiced mulled wine and a seasonal wreath on your front door. Without a doubt, the festive season is upon us.

But if you’re hoping to spend the month partying, or wanting nothing more than a cosying up in front of a warm fire, make sure you take time out to reflect on what you’ve achieved in the garden and on the allotment this year – what worked, what didn’t, and what you’re hoping to achieve in 2020. We may be restricted on what we can do in the garden this time of year, but our minds should be filled with creative, wonderful ambitions for the new growing season ahead. Look through seed catalogues, write lists and draw garden plans. Read gardening websites and talk to garden bloggers. This is an exciting time for gardeners, so there’s plenty to get inspired by. And with the promise of spring on the horizon, this should spearhead us into the new year.

In the flower garden

Protection

There’s still time to move your outdoor pots and containers, as we generally don’t get exposed to the extreme weather until January. If you don’t have a greenhouse, polytunnel or shed, group them together in a protected area of the garden. Keep them raised and off the frozen ground, as this will not only help the drainage for excess rain and melting snow, but prevent ground frost from cracking your pots. If your containers are too heavy, wrap horticultural fleece around your exposed shrub. Bubble plastic is another option. A wrapped potted plant will not only benefit from the added warmth but your expensive pot won’t crack from the frost.

A gardener sowing seeds into a seed tray filled with soil by handSowing

If waiting for spring to sow seeds seems too far away, there are seeds you can sow right now. Ensure they have somewhere warm and bright, such as a heated greenhouse or propagator, otherwise shorter daylight hours and cold temperatures will quickly put a stop to any possible germination. Seeds to consider are sweet peas, snapdragons and cyclamen.

Pruning

With leaves now fallen, a tree’s structure is clearly visible. Think about the three ‘Ds’: dead, damaged and diseased. Prune any deciduous tree branches that fall under these categories, but remember the overall structure and try not to prune too hard. As winter is a time of dormancy, many ‘sap’ based shrubs and trees, such as vines and acers, can also be pruned. Finally, start winter pruning wisteria. Ensure you cut summer side shoots back to no more than three buds.

Roses

Another plant that will benefit from pruning are bush roses. Bare-root varieties can now be planted up. Ensure all climbing roses are sufficiently tied-back, as winter winds can cause damage. A fresh supply of mulch around your garden plants will help protect them from the cold.

Root cuttings

Consider taking root cuttings from herbaceous perennials. This will increase your flower border supplies, and save you the expense of having to buy new plants next season.

An interior shot of composting leaf mulch leaf mould in a wooden compost bin

Leaf mould

Continue to keep borders and paths clear – debris and foliage can make paths slippery as well as harbouring slugs, snails and other pests. If you have the space why not create a large bin for leaves to break down naturally.  Four posts forming a square, pegged into the ground and surrounded with chicken wire is an easy and cheap solution. Twelve months from now, you’ll be spreading your own rich leaf mould across your garden beds.

Soil

If your beds are of heavy soil, dig over any bare areas. Try to do this when the ground isn’t waterlogged or in the midst of a frost. By leaving them as freshly turned clods winter will go to work on them, break them down and help to make your soil more manageable come spring. You could also consider adding organic matter to help lighten your soil. However, if you have a light soil avoid digging until spring as the free-draining soil will be prone to moisture loss.

Christmas trees

Many of us will be looking to purchase a Christmas tree over the coming weeks. With so many varieties to choose from, it’s worth thinking about a pot grown tree. Once the season is over, they can be moved outside to continue growing, and not thrown out like so many are in the new year. A one-off purchase from a reputable grower or nursery could have you enjoying your tree all year round. When it becomes too big to bring inside for the Christmas season, why not permanently plant it out into your garden? Not only will this one tree continue giving you and your family years of enjoyment, but it will also benefit the garden wildlife.

Failing that, if you do buy a pre-cut tree, don’t be so quick to throw it away in the new year. It can be chopped up and used as mulch for acidic plants such as blueberries, and the branches could find also find use as support canes for growing peas on your allotment.Christmas wresth making materials laid out on a table, including pliers and pinecones

Christmas wreath

If you’ve been growing ivy or holly then you might want to consider creating your very own Christmas wreath. By using cuttings of evergreen, or branches of crab apples and pyracantha berries, this is the time to let your creativity go wild.

Garden wildlife

Ensure all bird-feeding stations are clean and replenished regularly. A fresh water supply will also help our feathered friends at this time of year. Check all water features, including ponds, don’t freeze over, as this can damage the structures as well as being harmful to the fish and garden wildlife.

Freezing temperatures

Keep an eye on the weather reports and overnight temperatures. If you have plants in the greenhouse, then a heater might make all the difference on a cold night. If there is a snowfall, ensure all snow is removed from the greenhouse exterior, as any plants growing in the greenhouse will need all the warmth they can get. However, a warm greenhouse does increase the risk of pests and diseases, so regularly check all plants, pots and trays.

On the veg patch

Winter veg

It’s time for your winter veg to play their part on the Christmas day menu. Continue to check crops for pests and diseases, removing any fallen, yellowing or rotten foliage. The later you can leave digging up the veg, the fresher it’ll be on the big day. However, take into account the possibility of the ground being hard or frozen.

Primary cultivation

As winter veg gets dug up and plots start becoming bare, remove old debris and add to the compost heap. If the ground’s not too hard, turn over the soil to expose dozing pests and to aerate the soil. If you can, spread a thick layer of compost, or well-rotted manure over the plot.

If you have a compost heap then turn it over, as this will help it break down.

A gloved gardener's hand taking hardwood cuttings of a gooseberry bush with a pair of red pruners in winterFruit

If you’re growing currants or gooseberries, take hardwood cuttings. If you’ve been growing rhubarb for some years, dig up the crowns. Split them, top to bottom with a spade, and then re-plant. If you’ve purchased new varieties, plant them directly into the ground or large containers. Remember, leave a newly planted crown untouched for a year, that way it can become established, and produce quality stalks.

This is a good time of the year to plant bare-root fruit bushes and trees. Again, if you have established fruit trees, these can now be pruned. Again, think about the three ‘Ds’ and act accordingly. Check all staked fruit trees. If not securely tied-in, wind rock can cause damage and potentially kill the plant.

Winter salad

Continue to successional sow winter salads and check leaves for any slugs and pests. If they are grown outside and not in a greenhouse, ensure they are protected with a cold frame, cloche or horticultural fleece.

Other crops you can now sow in a heated greenhouse are leeks, broad beans and radish.

Prepping tools

If the weather has taken a turn for the worse, retreat to the potting shed. Once warm, set about cleaning and sharpening all hand tools. Service all power tools, including the lawnmower. Thoroughly clean all empty pots and trays in hot water with diluted washing up liquid. Carrying out these tasks now will ensure your tools last for years to come.

Other jobs

  • Add colour to the home with poinsettias, hyacinths or cyclamen persicum. However, keep watering to a minimum and place them in a draught-free environment, out of direct sunlight.
  • Start ordering seeds for the 2020 growing season.
  • Cuttings of evergreen, mistletoe and sprigs of holly can make excellent mantle and table displays.

October Gardening Advice

October 1st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill's October Gardening Advice 2019

If you listen quietly to your pumpkin patch, you’ll hear the growing whispers of ripening pumpkins, eager to take centre stage on Halloween night. There’s a chill in the air. As nights draw in, and temperatures drop, we need to prepare our gardens and allotments for the cold months ahead. Whether it’s making warming soups from homegrown produce, or planting bulbs for the spring season ahead, this is a busy time. But it’s also a glorious time, as autumn’s palette is awash with rich golds, reds and oranges.

So, raise a cup of homemade soup, and celebrate the harvest season.

In the flower garden

Bedding

It’s fair to say that summer bedding plants have had their moment in the sun. Remove them from your pots, containers or borders and replace with polyanthus and pansies. Give them fresh multi-purpose compose and water in well. However, if you’re leaving your borders bare, then clear the area of weeds, cutback and remove any unwanted debris and mulch the area with a thick bedding of well-rotted manure, compost or bark chippings. This will not only suppress weeds, but add nutrients to your beds.

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 Protect tender plants with fleece in the winter months

As temperatures begin to drop, you need to bring think about winter protection for your tender plants. 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, wrap them in fleece. Check plants regularly.

Bulbs

Now’s the time to plant tulip, daffodil and crocus 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.

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.

Dahlias

Unless you live in the south of the UK where winter temperatures are more forgiving, now’s the time to lift your dahlias as a harsh frost could put an end to any further blooms. Once lifted, foliage should be cut back to a few 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. Ideally, place them in paper, or straw, in a box, and check on them every so often to make sure they haven’t rotted.

Roses

Once your rambling and climbing roses have finished flowering, give them a prune. Then tie them in, to prevent any damage over the coming winter months. Remove all foliage from site, if your rose has had black spot, then it can fester in any foliage not collected, and re-appear next year.

Fallen leaves

A garden rake and a pile of fallen autumn leaves on a lawnAs 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 adding leaves to your compost heap, think about creating a wired pen. Leave them to rot down for six to twelve months and 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

Leaving perennials untouched over winter not only adds structure to your garden, but it gives a well needed food supply to your garden wildlife. If you decide to cutback, then take it to the base of the plant. If they’re summer flowering perennials, consider dividing and re-planting, to increase next year’s summer blooms. Plant in well, water and give the plant a heavy mulch to protect it from the colder weather. Don’t cover the stems as this will cause the plant to rot.

On the veg patch

Pumpkins

Pumpkins and squashes should now be lifted. To ensure they last throughout the winter months, leave them in the sun for several days to harden their skins. After that, place somewhere cool.

Apples and Pears

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. Check regularly, and remove any fruit that has spoiled.

Rhubarb

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.

Beans

With your bean plants spent, don’t be too keen to remove them from your bed. Instead, cut the plant to the base and remove the foliage. The roots produce nitrogen as they breakdown which will invigorate your bed for next season.

If you have a veg bed already ear-marked for next year’s beans, dig a trench. Over the coming months, layer it with kitchen waste or manure.

Garlic

A gloves hand planting garlic bulbs into some soilGarlic needs a good cold period to help develop its cloves. 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, 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 them inside, keeping them on a well-lit windowsill.

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. 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.

Other Jobs

A selection of carved Halloween pumpkins on a table

  • 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. Keep them away from direct heat sources, and place them in a draught free area which is cool but with good light.
  • Give nature a helping hand. Fill your bird feeders and hang fat balls. With cold days ahead, your garden birds will need all the help they can get.
  • If you have a pond, place a ball on the surface. This will keep the water moving, prevent ice forming and ensure any fish can still get oxygen.
  • 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; pumpkins make tasty autumn soups and risottos!

September Gardening Advice

September 2nd, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Mr Fothergill's September Gardening Advice

There’s no doubt about it, September is summer’s swan song. Despite the pleasant temperatures, the days are getting shorter, bringing with them cooler, longer nights.

From rich, burnt oranges to fiery reds, September’s flowerbeds are full of vibrant blooms. Whilst on allotments, gardeners are enjoying bountiful harvests of beans, carrots and potatoes. And if you look beyond the foliage, Halloween pumpkins are making their growing presence felt, ready to take their turn in the spotlight.

So, whilst the sun is here, take the time to get outside and enjoy it. Because in a month’s time, as you dig out those heavy jumpers, the warm embrace of summer will be but a distant memory.

In the Flower Garden

Perennials

If perennials are past their best, dig them up, divide and re-plant. Not only are you invigorating the clump, but you’ll get more flowers next season. Ensure these plants are watered-in and mulched. For plants, such as dahlias, continue to deadhead and tie-in.

A close up focusing on some white and light pink fuschia flowers with green leavesAnother way to increase plant stock is to take cuttings. Tender perennials, such as penstemons, salvias and fuchsias are ideal for this. Once potted up, they’ll quickly establish a healthy root system. Ensure they’re placed in a sunny, frost-free protected area. Overwatering, or keeping them somewhere damp may lead to dampening off, so check on your cuttings regularly.

Of course, you can buy new perennials and plant them. As the ground’s still warm, they’ll have time to establish themselves before temperatures drop. Then, with the arrival of spring, they’ll emerge healthy and ready to grow.

Borders

Although summer is still hanging on, it’s time to look ahead to next spring. Give your borders a refresh and clear away fading summer bedding. If you’re not planting autumn flowers, such as chrysanthemums, clear weeds, add compost, and think about what to plant for the following spring. Biennial varieties such as wallflowers, foxgloves, as well as polyanthus, pansies and sweet williams can be planted.

Bulbs

Although it’s still too early to plant tulip and allium bulbs, amaryllis and hyacinth bulbs can be planted. By forcing their growth, you could be enjoying their colourful, scented blooms throughout the festive season.

If you’re thinking ahead to spring, daffodil, crocuses, bluebells and lily bulbs can be planted. Plant them straight into the ground, at a depth of three times their height, or pot them up in containers.

Hanging baskets

To keep your hanging baskets looking at their best for as long as possible, ensure you feed and water regularly. Deadheading is also essential. But there will come a time when plants will have given their all, so think about what to replace. Whether it’s polyanthus or pansies, bring colour to your autumn, by freshening the soil and re-potting your hanging baskets.

Pots

Two homemade 'pot feet' in the shapes of bears holding up a terracotta plant pot, raising it off the ground to help it drain waterIf you have pots that sit outside, it’s time to raise them off the ground. Using bricks or ‘pot feet’ protects your plants by keeping them off the ground to allow the rain to drain off easily. This will also help prevent winter frosts from cracking your pots.

You may want to plant up your pots for the autumn season. Consider heather, cyclemen and trailing ivy. Place them where they can be seen, as you’ll want to see as much life as possible in your garden over the wintry months.

Greenhouse

With greenhouse plants spent, now’s the time to give it a thorough clean. This also applies to your permanent cold frames. Dispose of old plants, and remove all pots and containers as they can be protecting pests. Ensure all glass is cleaned with warm soapy water. Also, clean the greenhouse floor, as potential pests and diseases could still be lurking. If you’re planning to grow anything in the next few months, then your greenhouse will need as much light and warmth as possible. Pack away any shading you put up during the summer months. Carry out any maintenance needed, clean leaves from guttering (including downpipes and water butts), and test greenhouse heaters.

Sowing

Seeds such as sweet peas, centaurea and poppies can now be sown into trays or modules. Don’t let them dry-out, and as temperatures start to drop, ensure preparations are made to see them through the colder months.

Lawn

After a dry summer, and constant use, lawns will now need your attention. Over the coming weeks, grass slows its growth, so you’ll be mowing less frequently. Re-lay any bare patches with new turf, or re-sow seeds directly into the soil. Scarify, aerate and apply a dressing to the lawn. Keep edging in check, and remove any fallen foliage, as this can encourage thatching.

On the Veg Patch

Harvest

A close up of two pumkpins ready to be harvested on an allotment patchSquashes and pumpkins will be plumping and colouring. Once their vines are cracked and withered, you can harvest them. Leave them somewhere dry and bright for a few days so their skins can harden off. Stored correctly, these could last well into next spring.

Lift any remaining onions now before the weather turns for the worse. Once lifted, shake off any loose soil and leave them to dry for a week or two. Either somewhere dry and bright outside, or in a greenhouse. These then can be hung and stored to use when you’re ready.

Fruit

Apples and pears are ready to be picked. If you’re planning to store them, ensure none are spoilt and place apart on dry sand in a paper-lined box.  Store them somewhere, dark and cool, and check every so often to make sure none have spoilt.

Autumn raspberries, on the other-hand, will keep producing right up until the first frost, but the key is to keep picking.

If you’re hoping to grow more strawberries next year, then now’s the time to plant. Whether they’re newly bought plants, or runners from your own plants, get them in the ground. With the ground still warm, and the temperatures mild, this will give them enough time to get established.

Winter vegetables

This month consider planting over-wintering onion sets. Spinach, pak choi and radishes can be directly sown into the ground. Keep a cloche close, as night temperatures will be on the decline.

Tomatoes

By now, your tomato plants will have done their job. With all tomatoes picked, remove and dispose of the spent plants. Place any remaining green tomatoes in a paper-lined shoebox with a ripened banana, and keep somewhere warm. Check regularly, and once reddened, remove. Failing that, green tomatoes make excellent chutney.

Once you’ve cleaned your greenhouse, consider sowing a crop of hardy lettuce or spinach for the colder months.

Green manure growing in a bedGreen manure

If you’re not planning to grow anything over winter, then consider growing green manure in your empty beds. Not only will this help suppress weeds, it can help break up heavy soil. Come March, cut it up and dig into the soil, as this will provide many of the soil’s required nutrients.

Pests

Keep vigilant this month, your harvest-ready vegetables and ripening fruit will be a calling card for various pests. One culprit is the wasp. It won’t take him long to damage and spoil your crop. Hang wasp traps in your trees and bushes.

However, as wasps are also beneficial for your garden (they eat aphids, caterpillars and other pests as well as being good pollinators), you may want to consider a more humane way to deter them. One option is to cover your crops with fine netting or mesh.

Other jobs

Bring in any indoor plants you rested outside over the summer months.

Net ponds to prevent autumn leaves and debris clogging them up.

Reduce the frequency of watering your houseplants.

If you haven’t done so already, order your allium and tulip bulbs for next spring.

While flowers such as dahlias are still blooming, take cut flowers for the home.