8 USEFUL TIPS FOR THE AUTUMN GARDEN

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The changing hues of autumn signal the arrival of more civilised temperatures and much needed rainfall that makes it, once again, a joy to get out into the garden and make the most of it before; all too soon, winter is upon us.

1/ Summer flowering heads are dying off as the growing season comes to an end. It’s time to clean up the garden by deadheading all those old and spent flower heads which begin to look untidy. Some gardeners may choose to keep some of these for visual interest through autumn and give them a chance to drop their seed for next season. 

2/ Now is the perfect time to make plans for next year’s planting scheme. Take a note pad and wander round the garden before the summer display completely disappears. Take note of all the plants that didn’t do so well in their current positions, deciding whether you want to try them somewhere else or completely remove them altogether. 

3/ Autumn is an ideal time of year to plant trees, shrubs and perennials. Usually we’ve had some rainfall by now so the soil will be moist but still warm, giving newly planted roots ideal conditions to settle in and establish themselves before conditions become too cold. The benefits of this will become evident next spring when well established plants are able to put on new growth before the heat of summer sets in. 

4/ The same goes for transplanting existing evergreen trees and shrubs and taking hardwood cuttings from plants like rosemary, bay, photinia, rose, grevillea, banksia and conifers. Take a 10cm cutting from the previous year’s growth, trim off the lower leaves, and dip the stem in rooting powder then place in a good seed raising mix.

5/ Take the opportunity to aerate your lawn. You can use anything from your common garden fork to hand-pushed aerators or larger machines which can be hired. This will relieve the compaction induced by a summer’s worth of mowing and family fun and allow enough air flow and light penetration to prevent any fungal problems that may occur over winter. Finish off the job by top dressing the lawn with a mix of sharp sand, garden soil and compost then liquid feed with seaweed solution. 

6/ March is the main month for planting spring-flowering bulbs and there are so many to choose from including daffodils, alliums, crocuses, Iris histrioides and corms like Anemone blanda. I personally like to naturalise bulbs in lawns — smaller bulbs can be planted by cutting and lifting a section of turf and larger bulbs with a hand-held bulb planter. If you live in cooler more mountainous regions and are planning on planting tulips then wait until May.   

7/ If you’re planning any garden construction projects then autumn is the time to make them happen. Whether it’s a new deck, pergola, trellis to train vines over or you want to install a new garden path, the lower temperatures of autumn are much more suited to physical work. Even if you’re not going to do it yourself, your landscaper will thank you as well.

8/ Ponds that have become congested with plants over summer can be cleaned out before winter. Remove any excess leaf litter, floating plants, trim back oxygenating plants and divide irises. Be sure to leave any foliage by the side of the pond for a day or two so that wildlife can get back into the pond.