The first victory of any gardener is judicious preparation and, as with any work in progress (which your garden will never cease to be!), the foundations you lay will dictate the success of the project. So looking forward to the weekend, we’ve reviewed the most common and pressing group of tasks you should be looking to complete before autumn really sets in.
The autumn harvest
This is more applicable to vegetable gardeners as now is the time to harvest the crop that have come to fruition over the summertime, including Pumpkins, Runner Beans and Sweetcorn. But you can also sow and plant now crops such as Broad Beans, Asparagus, Spring Onions, Spinach and Spring Cabbage.
Frugality in fruition
I can happily say we’ve already had our first crumble of the autumn – blackberry and apple if you’re asking – and I’m also happy to say that while the apples were not from our own garden, the blackberries did come courtesy of a nearby bush. Autumn is the time to reap nature’s labours and your own. Any excess fruit should be carefully prepared for storage, either in the freezer or, as in the case of apples, in a cool shed or garage, and later used in anything from jams and jellies to pies and cobblers.
Wildlife and your protection from it!
At this time of year in particular birds and insects are on the look-out for juicy fruits and seeds and as such it is essential that you instigate protection measures for your plants and more specifically your fruit and veg crops. As a response, you should net the leafy vegetables and your soft fruits to protect them from the birds.
Ornamental planting for spring
Many perennials can be divided now to provide more plants for next year for free. Or why not share them with friends? Who knows you might get something different in return to add to your collection. Now would also be a good time to sow any hardy annuals and herbaceous perennials, and to plant spring bulbs to ensure plenty of colour next year.
Building a sanctuary
Probably my least favourite job of the year (particularly because ours is so awkward to erect) is putting up the temporary greenhouse in preparation for the colder weather, in order to safeguard the more exotic and environmentally demanding species in the garden. If you’re lucky enough to have a permanent greenhouse, start taking your tender plants inside soon. If you have neither, a conservatory or windowsill will do just as well, as long as it doesn’t get too hot.
You may also have relocated some of your houseplants outdoors in summer that they might add to the character of your garden, (it also does them a world of good), however, now that the winter cold approaches it is essential these tender plants be returned to the indoor environment that will protect them through the inhospitable weather we’re about to face.
One of the most loved, and yet most hated, features of autumn is the change in colouration of the trees, the rich golden and amber hues that are not only synonymous with autumn -they are exclusive to it, and while we revel in the beauty of this demise, it is not without cost. The leaves of course will fall and spread everywhere so it is essential that you first of all cover any bodies of water within the garden, as a settled layer of leaves can choke the ecosystem of oxygen and light, whilst also turning the water itself stagnant. Decaying leaves on lawns and flowers beds can also cause what’s underneath to die and harbour slugs and snails.
Whet their appetites
As ludicrous a proposition as a lack of rain in October in Britain might sound, it will be a very realistic hindrance should it happen, and as the proverb goes ‘Hope for peace, plan for war.’ A good way of hedging your bets, without hiking up the water bill, is to use grey water collection methods such as rain barrels to provide free, sustainable resources to the garden. Autumn is a good time to get these measures in place, so that, should we face the drought we did last spring, you won’t be fighting with every other British gardener to get hold of a water butt!
Long arm of the lawn
Autumn weeding of your lawn is a two-pronged approach as first of all, it saves you from performing one of gardening’s most tedious tasks in cold and wet weather where you might be less meticulous. Secondly, if you plan to use chemicals rather than physical labour, then you need to do so immediately in order to give the space three weeks to purge said chemicals before reseeding. You don’t want to be re-seeding too late in the season.
Cost effective cleaning
Several of the tasks we’ve included here have centred around maintenance or cleaning of one type or another and as such, the final labour we’d recommend is construction or purchase of a composting bin so that you might make use of all the detritus you’ll inevitably collect during your chores which could prove immeasurably useful in the months to come.
By Josh Ellison