Apart from a rainy August Summer this year has been the best we have had for a few years and as I write this early in September the sun is shining and flowers are still blooming, although some are now past their best. By the time you read my article autumn will be with us and there are many things to do in the garden before winter starts.
October is the time when you should be prepared for frosts. You should have fleece, together with straw, paper or some other packing material on hand in order to cover the more tender plants.
Any remaining summer bedding plants are best cleared and replaced. It is also the time to lift the plants you want to split and replant or move somewhere else, digging and manuring the ground first. If possible do not move peonies as they resent being disturbed. Delphiniums and autumn-flowering chrysanthemums are best propagated from cuttings taken from new growth. Pot up a few clumps in boxes to keep in a cold greenhouse or cold frame to provide early shoots next year for cuttings. Lift and store Dahlia tubers as soon as their foliage has been blackened by the first frost.
Gladioli foliage should be cut down when it turns yellow, then lift, clean and store the corms. Continue to plant winter and spring flowering bulbs. All biennials for spring and summer flowering, such as wallflowers, Canterbury bells and sweet Williams, should be planted as soon as possible.
Take hardwood rose cuttings and root outdoors. Also take hardwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs. Remove any lingering dead flowers from roses and cut back any soft shoots to reduce the risk of die back. Pick up any fallen leaves that show signs of black spot or other disease, and give the plants a final spray with a fungicide.
Protect tender perennials by bringing them into the shelter of the greenhouse, carefully lifting them from the ground and potting them up. If their top growth is tall trim it back to avoid possible damage.
Sow cauliflower and lettuce seeds under cloches, also broad beans. Plant winter lettuce in a cold frame. Dig up and store any remaining potatoes. Also dig up and store carrots and beetroot in boxes of dry sand. Cover brassicas to protect them from pigeons. Stake Brussels sprout plants. Cut down globe artichokes and protect crowns with straw. Bend the leaves of the cauliflower over the curd to protect them from frost and rain. Check stored onions and potatoes regularly to make sure they are not rotting. Plant spring cabbage.
Pick and store apples and pears. Cut out old blackberry, raspberry and loganberry canes and tie in new ones to wire supports. Prepare the ground for new fruit trees and bushes to be planted this month. Remove runners from newly planted strawberries. Cuttings can now be taken of currants and gooseberries. Lift rhubarb and divide as necessary.
Improving the soil is the best route to more successful gardening, and during the next few months you have an ideal opportunity to make a start. Dig it over before the winter makes the ground too hard work and add plenty of organic matter.
Scarify lawns with a wire-toothed rake to remove dead grass and spike the surface. Top dress with sand, compost and fertiliser. Make new lawns from turf.