I love Autumn. I love leaves to kick through, apples to catch, the clocks going back, the fire being lit, the cosiness of winter creeping in and oh Halloween…I even like the way us British do Halloween – half arsed and a bit wonky but full of laughing. So hold onto your hats, it’s a right old windy autumn so far…and here comes another newsletter. Thanks for all your comments about the new website. Don’t feel obliged but you can comment below in the box and then everyone can join in. Also if you are so inclined then you can follow me on facebook and twitter, just use the links on the right. Some of you wanted more, (even calling for daily up dates) others wanted more pictures (gardening ones…I think), one of you asked me for recipes….as you can see I have done that thing of thanking you but completely ignoring you all! I promise you that would if I could, but I just about manage to fit sanity into the day as it is and any blogging, spieling, waffling or non-gardeningaction would be sure to tip me firmly over the edge. So onto the good things in life it is super crunchy leaf falling weather. October is a great month for lots of digging, raking and other very satisfying jobs in the garden. This is a great time for a bit of proper magic, root cuttings, honestly it is proper magic, and I have put aside my blibber blabber bit to this and only this. Finally if you’d rather be kicking leaves than picking them up then have a look at the outings bit and see if I can tempt you out.
Raking time again – I would recommend that on the last mowing that you keep the mower out and once you have checked for large rocks and the like then you can mow up the leaves from the driveway much easier and very satisfying:
- Make a leaf mulch bin with 4 posts knocked into the ground and chicken wire tacked on. If you can’t face such a chore then have a look here for biodegradable leaf sacks. They are great.
- Rake up the leaves to put in one of the above, but leave them in the flower beds for over wintering wildlife. Save your leaves but burn your twigs and save back some bigger logs to…
- …make a log pile for a winter retreat for beetles, bugs and frogs.
Prune your climbing roses.
- Get vacant ground busy by choosing a plant for your site and preparing your ground now. November is the ideal time to plant roses, fruit trees, shrubs and deciduous trees. Dig the ground, adding plenty of well rotted animal manure and let the ground settle for a few weeks.
- Check your tree ties. Loosen or replace them if needed.
- Pot up your strawberry runners and make yourself a new strawberry bed.
- It is the best time to lay a new lawn.
- This is the month for seeding and repairing your lawn, but then stop it!
- Sow sweet pea seeds – put them in pots (not tubes) and keep in a greenhouse or on a cool windowsill.
- Is the frost coming? If it does and all your dahlias, cannas and begonias go black then cut back the foliage and either dig up to store in dry compost in a frost free place, or wrap up in fleece for the wintertime. Be prepared for this advice to appear every month for a while.
- If you still have green tomatoes on your vines then dig up the whole vine and hang it upside down in your greenhouse or in a cool light place to encourage the fruits to ripen.
- Sort out and clean out your greenhouse. Keep it well ventilated or you’ll end up with a mouldy greenhouse.
- If you do have a greenhouse then it’s time to make your last sowing of hardy lettuces such as Arctic King.
- Once the ferny foliage of the asparagus goes all yellow and dies then cut it back to 2.5cms above the ground. Pop on a good layer of compost.
- Keep picking apples and pears and make sure you clear them from under the trees to stop diseases and pests getting a hold.
- Plant garlic, shallots and onions.
- Chuck a bit of fleece over any beetroot or carrots that you are growing outdoors.
Sow green manure in empty veg beds to improve your soil and also to prevent autumn weeds coming up.
- Plant lily bulbs in pots or in well drained soil straight into the garden.
In your ponds take out lights and pumps and remove dead leaves from your water lilies.
- If you have put netting over your pond to catch leaves then make sure you check them often so you can save trapped frogs, newts and toads.
- Plant spring bulbs (but hold off planting tulips until November)
If you need any help or advice then please get in touch.
Free plant time! Oh yes indeedy free – or cheap as chips. Mind you if you don’t have a suitable plant to operate on in your garden then you may be looking at Joannas hand cut chips rather than Morley’s fries to go but it is still worth it.
What are you on about? Root cuttings.
What are you on about? Ok you dig up a suitable plant. Wash it’s underside. Cut off juicy carbohydrate full roots. Plant your cuttings in nice cosy compost. Top with grit. Put outside in your greenhouse, coldframe or (more likely) in a sheltered spot. Wait a bit, not forgetting to water and murmur sweet encouragement now and again. Then woohoo, new baby plants to pot on in spring and plant out in summer. Magic. Proper, clever, exciting, lovely, lovely free plants.
Why haven’t I done this before, why isn’t everyone doing this daily?
Exactly. Well most of us are wrapped up warm inside. It’s cold. Our attention turns to hot chocolate and worrying about our trick and treating outfits. Most expert gardeners don’t think this an activity we are all capable of or interested in! But it is easy, productive, money-saving and most of all magic! I do this indoors on my kitchen table, but with my new kitchen now installed I may have to hide that fact from my family!! They often peer at my feet, hands and activities to ensure they fit in with our new fixtures and fittings and so far I’m bluffing superbly.
Some plants you can, some you can’t
Totally pointless to even touch on the can’t list, but it’s long, very long. Best to give you the can list, it’s much shorter and in this context more helpful too. So the ones to try are Japanese anemone, Acanthus both mollis and spinosus, Crambe cordifolia, Verbascum, Oriental poppies and Eryngium’s. I have linked you up to websites that will sell you one. To be honest the website link is just so you can have a quick look if you aren’t sure what a plant looks like. I’d suggest that if you have the urge then go to your local garden centre of choice and get one now! I bizarrely prefer buying a new healthy plant to do this too as it is easy to get at, you know it is in good nick and you don’t have to muck up your border. Also if you go out to dig up a plant you know you’ll get sidetracked weeding and faffing about and then the day will be gone and you’ve dug up a plant and never got round to doing anything with it and you’ll have that unsettled, annoyed feeling as you make dinner and you’ll begin to resent the children for having to eat – that might just be me – but I’m pretending it’s you too, if it’s my mother reading then I know I speak the truth!
Just ran upstairs to put on my Nigella Lawson outfit so I can dish you up an ingredients list. Right here we go, we need: 1) a suitable plant from the list above. 2) a sharp knife. 3) a chopping board or suitable cleanish surface, remember before we nurture and tend we will be chopping and cutting and slashing and despite our wanton abandonment we do need to keep the roots as healthy as possible so NO! that mucky old garden table won’t do, don’t make me come over there! 4) sterilised pots 5) compost (mix potting compost with perlite or sand) I like Vital Earth’s seed and cutting compost, last year Knolly’s nursery had some in. No need to mix or fiddle faddle about if you get that compost it is all ready to go!
Two optional extras
6) optional hormone rooting powder 7) optional is a layer of grit, this stops the compost from panning (getting compounded by our watering), it keeps water from evaporating and can deter slugs and snails if it is sharp enough.
To do list…. It really is simple
You get everything ready. Fill your pot with the compost. Tip out/dig up and then wash the roots of your plant. Choose a good chunky healthy root, cut it off, remember which is the top and which is the bottom. Then chop the root into lengths of about 5cm’s and pop it in your pot – the right way up. I usually put in five in a pot all round the edge. Then put on your grit on, if you are using, give it a light bit of watering and put the pot in your greenhouse/coldframe or in a sheltered bit. It doesn’t need molly coddling. In spring you’ll probably suddenly remember them and find a little leaf popping through. I pot on at this time and then by the summer you have a plant for your garden or to sell at the summer fair.
As usual the rhs website is a good, clear source of information. The bbc page is good and there is a video of Carol Klein actually taking root cuttings, it is always helpful to see what I’m wittering on about, BUT I am a bit sceptical about Carols use of toilet roll middles. In the past I’ve used them to grow sweet peas as I thought they made great root trainers but they all either died quickly or never germinated. I looked into what was going on and found that toilet roll middles are often treated with fungicide to stop any mould developing in storage. So I’d look at the vid but ignore that toilet roll middles.
We’ve got ourselves a reader
Always always always I recommend RHS Propagating plants by the deliciously named Alan Toogood. Carol Klein knows her stuff and I really enjoy her writing, she has a section in her book Grow your own garden that is really good, it’s also one of those books that makes you want to get busy. If you want a borrow of either of these please let me know you are very welcome. It seems to have started to become a thing I do, to put on one book I don’t have but looks good so this month it is The Gardener’s Guide to Propagation: Step-by-step Instructions for Creating Plants for Free, from Propagating Seeds and Cuttings to Dividing, Layering and Grafting by Richard Rosenfeld, now he wrote tricks with trees a truly delightful book so this must be a good one too!
Once upon an October I attended a lovely apple day at Spitalfields City Farm and I had hoped to guide you to their door, but they don’t seem to be having one this year. Do not dismay as look – I found us a little gardening mystery it’s all laced in fancy language that seems to be English but makes not one iota of sense to me!! They say it’s EcoTherapy Sessions, I have no idea what that might be but I think it looks great. It finishes in mid October so even more intrigued now as it is going away and I don’t really understand what it is!
Do not worry about your apple needs though as there is always the wonderful London Orchard Project that is holding an apple harvest and juicing event at Bethlem Royal Hospital in Bromley on Friday October 19th.
Less of a day out but more of a project here is something you might be interest in. Again it is the wonderful Orchard Project and they are looking to map of every orchard in Greater London. Have a look at this article in the City Planter Maybe you’d like to get involved?