Although it has been mild through October I think it’s safe to say we are now definitely in Autumn. The clocks have gone back and the last Saturday in October saw the first frost. The grass at the yard when I arrived to turn the horses out was white and crisp. It looked beautiful in the first light.
However, this is a reminder to crack on and get any tender plants tucked up somewhere warm for the winter. Pelargoniums benefit from a prune and I also repot them before popping them somewhere that will stay frost-free. For some this is a garage, or you may have a heated greenhouse. I put mine in my lean-to which helps to remind me to check them as I pass them every time I go out into the garden. They need little, or no, watering over the winter.
Plants such as dahlias are still OK out in the garden and many are continuing to flower. They are not usually lifted until they have died back and the foliage has gone black. Fuchsias are also OK for a while yet. Most are still in full flower which is appreciated by bees that are out and about on warmer days. They are tougher than Pelargoniums and I usually just move mine (they are all in large pots) to a sheltered spot near the house once they have lost their leaves.
Autumn means leaves! They need to be cleared from lawns or the grass will die off underneath. Most lawns are still being cut but not as frequently. When mowing cut slightly higher than usual. Grass is better left slightly longer over the winter. However, once the soil under your lawn is very wet, or the grass is frozen, stay off it! Cutting the edges helps make it look tidier over the Winter and also gives easier access to stepping stone paths if the edges are kept back.
If you haven’t got them in already it is time to get planting with your Spring and early Summer flowering bulbs. If your soil tends to be very wet in Winter then many bulbs especially tulips and gladioli benefit from a small layer of grit underneath them as they can be prone to rotting.
Although we are heading into wetter weather don’t forget to keep an eye on your pots as they can still get very dry. The foliage acts as an umbrella over the pot so the rain is unable to reach the soil beneath. Pots are best lifted slightly as it helps to prevent the base from freezing. You can buy pot feet or a couple of old bricks/roof tiles will also do the job.
As herbaceous plants begin to die back clear the old growth as it can provide a haven for pests and disease and weed flower beds. After the beds have been tidied add a good layer of well-rotted manure or garden compost as a mulch. This helps protect the crowns of the plants over the Winter and as it breaks down it also helps improve your soil.
Lastly, on crisp bright days head out and enjoy the fabulous Autumn colours!