Science for the Gardener book to be published this year
I have always regarded October as one of the busiest months for northern hemisphere gardeners and believe it or not it’s because gardeners are REALLY preparing for Spring!Yes Spring !
It’s a very hard working gardening month so let’s look at the priorities facing us besides a warmer jacket and footwear and a warm tea or coffee.
Clear leaves into plastic sacks or wire containers its worth saving them as leaf mould is the best soil improver I know
Tidy ponds and cover from leaves and dig out silt and yellowing water lily leaves, reduce feeding fish, this will clear the water for them. Leave any water weed beside the pond to allow any wildlife to return.
Prepare soil well for planting new trees and shrubs and hedges, especially climbers, and remove completely roots and all unwanted plants that in your view have ‘not benefited’ your garden. Many people have told me how huge and widespread many of their plants have grown to so now is the best opportunity of the year to remove or severely prune them. Caution look first for those special Spring flowering buds of Camellia, Forsythia, Magnolia that are now very evidently growing fast. If you are cutting in to old wood such as many conifers and lavenders, take care as it will not regenerate, just decide what size you want to leave the plant before you start to prune. Perennials such as Crocosmias can be lifted and divided now especially if clumps are getting too huge, it’s your garden space as well as the plants don’t wait till you are overwhelmed in late summer.
Roses should be cut very hard back as winter winds will snap them. Remove by hand rose black spot leaves, do not compost, burn or dispose as rubbish otherwise they will be back and unsightly next year.
This is a good time to plant spring bulbs but dig them in deep, three times at least the bulb depth its important otherwise they topple over on flowering which defeats the object. Talking planting depth if you are planting Clematis you must plant as deep as your soil will allow. Clematis wilt is on the rise caused probably by a combination of high humidity in summer and allowing a fungal pathogen to enter small wounds on the very lengthy woody stems but it especially attacks the roots if too near the soil surface!
Plants to look out for on a walk around ,Ivy ,Chinese Lanterns ,Amalanchier tree red colours and the Cercidyphylum tree golden colour leaves and burned sugar smell, Acers with superb indented coloured leaves ,Kaffir Lillies long lasting colours , Crysanthemums and all daisy family autumn long lasting colours especially blue Aster ‘Frikartii’. Plant hardy biennials and winter bedding such as pansies ,violas and wall flowers usually on sale at your garden centres in November for winter and spring flowering. Winter hanging baskets are becoming popular.
Time to prepare ground for Spring so take advantage of winter frost by digging over compacted clay soil ,add manure and leaf mould which will break the soil up and add those vital organic (unpaid) hard working microbes to help produce more nutrients especially nitrogen. Add a scattering of high (13%) phosphorus as bonemeal at this time of the year ,the soil will have winter to absorb it as phosphorus not very soluble so not mobile through soil. .Growmore (7.7.7) is excellent if you suspect your soil requires generally refreshing with nutrients but do a simple soil nutrient check by looking at plant health such as leaf veins and stem and branch weakness and poor flowering .
Harvest remaining potatoes ,runner beans and not forgetting those wonderful summer fragrant herbs an enjoyable task.
Onion sets ,garlic and cabbages can be planted while soil is still warm.
Prepare for some refreshing and busy gardening , just think of those early Spring months .
Tony Arnold MCIHort
SciencefortheGardener a Secondary Science Resource to the RHS