Despite the unusually sunny October we’re being treated to, there’s no getting around the fact that Autumn has begun and gardeners need to start making preparations for the cold weather to come.
Although much of these preparations will be protective in nature, preserving your more delicate specimens as the temperature drops, there are also a lot of opportunities to be had in the pre-winter months for gardeners that plan ahead.
Protecting Existing Plants
Mulch is an excellent way to protect sensitive plants from rot and frost, as well as provide an effective nutrient boost during the leanest period of the year.
Go around to those established plants with tender stems and spread a 3-inch layer out at the base, woodchip or another chunky variety of mulch is especially good for maintaining airflow whilst allowing the permeation of water.
Wrapping can use a variety of materials but the basic premise is the same: we are looking to essentially blanket the trunks of young trees to help protect them from sunscald (a form of sunburn that can damage younger trees trunks). This is often necessary if plants are too big or too well-established to practically house indoors.
A few examples of tender plants you’ll want to wrap include Tree Ferns, Banana Trees, climbers such as Jasmine and Passionflower, or certain shrubs like Lobster Claws or Glory Flowers.
You can also whitewash your larger trees if the colour is fitting to your garden however the trade-off here is that what you save on material costs you may pay back with interest on clean up afterwards.
There are two main groups of plants that need to be wintered indoors: those that have a dormancy period during winter, and those with continual growth during the colder months.
Tender bulbs make up the bulk of winter dormancy plants and since many varieties are quite expensive, it’s certainly worth digging them up, drying them over a week or two to remove excess moisture, and then storing them well above freezing until the spring.
Examples of these tender bulbs include Elephant’s Ear, Dahlias, and Gladiolus.
Among the plants that will grow throughout winter you have fragrant herbs like Thyme and Rosemary, and flowers such as Geraniums (which need plenty of light), Hibiscus, and Fuschia.
Though October has been unusually warm, we are now approaching the cut-off point of approximately 10°C nighttime temperatures and you’ll want to make sure that your vulnerable plants are all accounted for in the next couple of weeks to ensure they can return in the new year.
What to plant
The flipside of autumnal gardening is that we can begin preparations for next year’s bounty by sowing our spring-harvest vegetables now. Below is a list of some of our favourite varieties:
A staple in so much modern cooking that can also have medicinal benefits, whenever I get particularly flu-ridden, I stuff a couple of cloves into my socks before going to bed.
The Allicin compound found in garlic is one of nature’s most powerful antibiotics, though your partner may not appreciate your morning kisses quite as much!
Another delicious vegetable and the basis of many classic English recipes including cottage and shepherd’s pie, onions can also be used to make a salve for sore throats.
If you add sugar to the diced onion and leave them to mingle for half an hour, the onion will liquify into sweet and pungent cough syrup.
And to accompany your cottage pies, we have the humble garden pea, you’ll want a decent-sized plot for obvious reasons – lest you find yourselves in a game of marbles at Easter lunch to see who gets the sole portion!