As long as you wrap up warm, there should be plenty of great opportunities this month to get out into the garden to tidy it up, plant new shrubs and perennials and get it ready for winter.
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Cut back faded herbaceous perennials and, providing the old foliage and stems are disease free, add them to the compost heap. Some perennials produce attractive seed heads and these can be kept on for added winter interest and to provide shelter for overwintering insects and food for birds.
Overcrowded clumps of perennials may need lifting, dividing into smaller pieces and replanting. Once these plants become overcrowded it can affect their flowering and make them more prone to disease. Lifting and dividing will revive their flowering ability.
Always replant in soil that has been improved with compost and water in well.
Division is also a cheap way of increasing your stock of favourite plants or making friends and influencing people by potting up small divisions and giving them away or providing plants for plant sales.
Don’t forget to finish planting your spring-flowering bulbs. There are many bulbs to choose from, as well as the good old favourites – daffodils, tulips, snowdrops, crocuses and hyacinths. These include muscari (grape hyacinths), chionodoxa (glory of the snow), scilla and ipheion. For the best displays, plant in bold groups of one type and variety, rather than scattering the bulbs thinly.
It’s also a good time to plant lily bulbs for a riot of colour next summer.
This is the perfect time to plant up your patio containers with permanent plantings, including small trees, shrubs, fruit and climbers. As patio plants are highly visible all year round, look out for plants that give interest for as long as possible. Obviously, evergreens are a great choice, but also look out for long-flowering shrubs, plants that produce fabulous autumn foliage colours, autumn berries and fruit and colourful or interesting stems for winter interest.
When planting up containers always make sure you use a fit-for-purpose compost, which will ensure great results, good growth and fabulous displays. For trees, shrubs and other long-term plantings you’ll get better results with a loam-based compost, like John Innes No 3 compost.
If you want to grow ericaceous plants, such as rhododendrons and azaleas, but your garden soil is not suitable, these are great subjects for patio containers. Simply fill containers with an ericaceous compost.
Although temperatures will be cooler than in summer, don’t forget to keep an eye on patio planters and other containers to make sure the compost doesn’t dry out. Even when it rains, it doesn’t guarantee that containers will receive enough water, so check the compost and try to keep it evenly moist, without drying out or becoming waterlogged.
Raise patio containers on to bricks or purpose-made pot feet to avoid them sitting in water during the winter, which will lead to root rots. It can also make terracotta pots more susceptible to cracking and flaking caused by wet/frost combination.
This is the perfect time to plant hardy shrubs, trees, climbers, roses and hedges. The soil will still be quite warm and the roots of new plants will get established quickly as a result.
Prune bush roses by up to half, as reducing their height now will prevent wind rock. Roses are generally shallow-rooted and can become loose in the soil if buffeted by strong winds, causing damage to the roots.
Similarly, shrubs normally pruned hard in the spring, such as buddleia and lavatera, can also be cut back by half to prevent wind rock and to neaten up their appearance.
Check tree ties and stakes are secure before strong winds cause damage.
This is not a major time of year for lawn care, but a little attention now will pay dividends in the spring.
Depending on the weather, the grass may still be growing, so you may still need to mow the lawn. Raise the height of cut slightly higher than that for summer, since the grass grows more slowly during autumn. Mowing when the grass needs it will help the lawn to withstand the last of any warm, dry weather and help resist treading when the cold and wet weather arrives. But don’t mow when the grass is wet or frozen.
Remove fallen leaves off the lawn before they block out light and air penetration to the grass, which can cause the grass to die. On large lawns, a powered leaf collector will make the job much easier or remove them using the lawnmower with the blades set at their highest cutting height. This will make it easier than raking and will chop them into smaller pieces that can be added to the compost heap.
Repair damaged lawn edges using a spade or half moon edging iron to cut out a square of turf containing the damaged area. Turn the turf around so that the damaged area is on the inside and fill the bare areas with EverGreen Lawn Repair Kit.
Autumn and winter can be stressful times for houseplants, so give them the care they need to keep them strong and healthy.
Regularly pick off yellowing or dead leaves and faded flowers to keep plants looking their best and help prevent disease problems developing and spreading.
Check houseplants for greenfly and other pests as they can multiply quickly now that the central heating is on. Either rub them off or spray them with a suitable insecticide.
Be careful not to overwater – the biggest killer of most houseplants – and never leave water sitting in plant saucers as this can cause root rotting.
Water cyclamen by filling the saucer with water until the plant takes up no more – then throw away any surplus. Watering from the top may rot the tuber.
There’s no need to feed foliage houseplants now. Flowering houseplants will give a better display for longer if fed weekly with a liquid houseplant fertiliser.
Cacti and succulents, apart from Christmas cacti, need a period of cool dormancy over the winter: keep them at 7-13C (45-55F), the compost barely moist and don’t feed them. Resume normal care next spring to bring them back into growth and flowering.
Clivias also benefit from a rest period over winter.
Give foliage houseplants a break from the dull winter indoor light by moving them nearer to windows or to a conservatory.