Updated: Oct 5, 2020
• Start to clear Autumn debris to prevent pests and diseases.
• Sow or turf new lawns and scarify and aerate established ones. Scarifying is the process by which a spring time rake is used to take out any dead grass and moss. It can make the lawn look a bit of a mess at this stage, but it will do it the world of good and your lawn will soon recover. The next stage is to aerate it by way of pushing a garden fork into the soil to a depth of 6” at 6” intervals over the whole area. If you have a large area machines can be hired, or tools purchased that take out plugs of soil. It is also worth giving your lawn an autumn feed. Do not use a summer feed as this is high in nitrogen. At this time of year, it is better to give a low-nitrogen feed as you don’t want to encourage soft, sappy growth.
• Begin to divide overgrown perennials and provide support for any taller varieties. It is also a good time for planting new perennials. It’s always worth planning what plants will be going where. There is such a vast array of types and colours its worth spending a little time on the planning stage so you don’t end up with tall plants in front of short ones and colours that may clash and not work in your colour scheme. Water well after planting and before if they seem dry.
• If you have any established perennials already in the garden now is a good to lift, divide and replant. Usually after about 3 years its good practice to lift the perennials. This can be done by lifting with a fork and then using two forks back to back and prizing apart or cut into pieces using a spade or knife. The centre of a perennial becomes tired with age whereas the outer sections are the new pieces that are going to produce a much better plant as they grow next year. When replanting, revitalize the soil with plenty of organic matter and plant the smaller pieces you have into groups of three or five, so they eventually form a nice clump.
• Plant spring-flowering bulbs and spring flowering biennials and plant up hanging baskets and containers with Winter and Spring interest bedding.
This is the main month for planting spring flowering bulbs, except for tulips which will be a little later. Dwarf bulbs in pots and baskets are particularly appealing. There are plenty of Dwarf Narcissi to choose from along with Tulips, Crocus and Iris. It is also worth trying planting bulbs in layers in a pot to extend the growing period and interest. While these are growing its worth planting the top of the pot with something like Viola to give instant colour.
• Lift any tender pants and bring them under cover or take cuttings to provide new stock as a security measure in case the original plant is lost during the winter.
• Now is a good time to force Hyacinth bulbs so they are ready to flower at Christmas. Plant these with the tips of the bulbs showing then place in a cool dark place. Once the roots have developed and the tips are growing and starting to show their flower tips then bring out into the light.
• Start to prune climbing roses once the flowers are over. Firstly, remove and dead, damaged and crossing stems. Making sure you cut back to a healthy bud. Tie back any healthy long shoots to a healthy framework and prune back others to two or three buds.
• If you have a clay soil which many of us have, now is a good time to dig it while the soil is reasonably dry. This will allow the winter weather plenty of time to break down the clumps of soil, ready for planting next spring. Also integrate plenty of organic matter into the soil.
• Autumn is a great time to plant trees, shrubs and hedging. At this time of year, the soil is still quite warm and moist. This means the roots can establish quickly before winter sets in and allow the plants not get off to a good start in the spring. Remember also when planting trees to use a stake and tie to allow the roots to be kept stable while it is becoming established.
• In the vegetable garden you can start to sow winter varieties of lettuce. Sow in shallow drills in the usual manner and protect by way of cloches. Lettuce seeds tend to germinate quite quickly so as soon as they are large enough to handle thin them out to 6” apart. These are then usually ready for harvesting from January onwards.
• Plant out spring cabbage which can be planted 6” apart in rows 1 ft apart. As they grow you can harvest every other plant as spring greens leaving the others to heart up. Cover the plants with netting or fleece to stop those pesky pigeons having them as they seem to love cabbages!
• Autumn is the traditional time for planting garlic as it needs a period of cold weather for it to grow well. Plant in a sunny site in well drained soil. When you buy garlic, it comes as a bulb which is made up of the cloves. This need to be split up and each clove planted separately. Plant each one 3-4” apart and leave 1ft between the rows. Make sure the tips of the garlic are just showing above the soil. If your soil is quite heavy then you can plant the cloves into cells or pots, kept in a cold frame then planted out in the spring.
• Plant autumn onion sets. The sooner these go in the better. Make a shallow drill 1” deep and set the onions 3” apart. Firm the soil around leaving the tips just visible. Might be worth covering with netting at this stage to stop birds pulling them out.
• Finish cutting out summer fruiting Raspberry canes that have fruited this year and tie in next years fruiting canes. Take care not to confuse these with autumn fruiting raspberries. Which will still be ripening.
• Prune blackcurrants once all the foliage has dropped. It is always better to do it at this stage rather than sooner as it gives the plant chance to use essential foods in the leaf to go back into the plant.