This is the month when the days start to get shorter and cooler, but can often be quite unpredictable. We can either find ourselves turning the central heating on again or we could have some warm or even hot days with glorious sunshine. Whatever the weather does, there’s always something to be done in the garden – tidying, pruning, planting – it’s all go!!
It’s important to continue to feed, water and deadhead your basket and container plants, and many of them will keep going until the first frosts. But if any are starting to look a bit tired now you’ll find there’s a good selection of new season plants now available to refresh your displays.
Chrysanthemums are the quintessential flower of autumn and will keep your patio colourful through the season. Winter pansies and violas with their cheery little faces will give a welcome splash of colour throughout the winter. They may shut up shop if the weather becomes very cold but will soon burst back to life come a bit of warmth! Pop some bulbs into your pots under your winter bedding as well as in your borders for a welcome sign of spring in the new year. There’s a huge choice available to suit any colour scheme.
Now is also an ideal time to plant new shrubs. The soil is still warm and planting at this time will allow plants to settle in before winter comes, giving them a head start next spring. The best autumn colours probably come from the foliage of shrubs. Our particular favourites at Merryhatton are Cotinus (smoke bush), Callicarpa with its violet-purple berries, and Ceratostigma, which has deep blue flowers with red tinted leaves.
It’s the perfect time to prune your late flowering shrubs too, to keep them vigorous and flowering well.
You can collect seeds from any of your favourite plants in your garden at this time. They are best stored in either paper bags or envelopes, and don’t forget to label them! But don’t be too tidy – seed heads can make a very attractive feature over the winter, and are appreciated by wildlife as a food source too.
Late September is the perfect time to prepare your lawn for winter. The grass needs mowing less frequently as temperatures drop and the growth rate slows, so raise the height of your mower blades. Aerating your lawn with a garden fork will help to avoid waterlogging and compaction, whilst raking over the grass or scarifying helps to take away dead grass and moss. An autumn fertiliser applied now will slow down top growth and encourage better root development.
Autumn means falling leaves and if you don’t have one already, it’s a good idea to get or build a leaf bin or compost bin to collect them. Don’t use any that are obviously diseased as this will spread it. As the leaves start to fall on your lawn, remember to rake up regularly!
We are often asked about planting hyacinth bulbs so they will be ready for Christmas. Our advice is to plant at the end of September and store in a dark, cool place until the shoots are 5cm long. You can then bring them out into the light, and hey presto, you’ve grown a lovely Christmas gift!