After one of the wettest mid-summers in my experience – with heavy rains and flooding widespread throughout the UK – we can only hope for a late warm spell to brighten the nation’s mood. As we step into the autumn and nature’s natural time for planting there’s no excuse for not taking stock of your garden. Everyone can plant new features, replace the old and buy some quality plants that will transform your garden next year.

With a little warmth and sunshine michaelmas daisies (asters), Japanese anemones, chrysanthemums, perennial stonecrop (sedum) and coneflower daisies (helenium, echinacea and rudbeckia) will be making a great display in many gardens. With all the wet weather the asters will need protection from powdery mildew if they are to flower in profusion and a spray or two with FungusClear Ultra a couple of weeks apart will even protect new growth.

If your own garden lacks colour then garden centres will have plenty of container-grown coneflowers to plant immediately. They are perennials, so will provide colour for many years to come and will do well in any sunny, well-drained soil. For pink flowers go for Echinacea ‘Prairies Splendour’ or ‘Bressingham Hybrid’; for red ‘Tomato Soup’ or orange ‘Hot Papaya’ and ‘Vintage Wine’ for pink/purple. Sneezeweed (Helenium) varieties include ‘Ruby Tuesday’ (copper red); Double Trouble (the first double yellow) and Chelsey (bright red with yellow flecks).

Rudbeckia plants provide good yellow and orange flowers on tall and short stems, with ‘Goldsturm’ being the most popular choice for stems 60cm tall and dwarf Black-eyed Susan ‘Toto’ better for the fronts of borders as it only grows to 25cm tall.

Tickseed (Coreopsis) will provide some vivid yellow flowers that you can find on tall stems 1 metre tall from variety ‘Badengold’ or dwarf stems from ‘Goldfink’. Newer breeds of different colours can be found in the Dancing Maiden series of Coreopsis that include chocolate and white (Jive); deep maroon (Bolero) and pink and white (Soca).

Your local garden centre will also be encouraging you to plant out trees and shrubs during the autumn planting period. You will see many shrubs for spring and summer colour and hebes, potentilla, and buddleia for instant autumn flowers and some brilliant Japanese maples (acer) and smoke bush (cotinus) for bright autumn foliage colour.

It’s time to take cuttings from some of the tender bedding such as geraniums and osteospermum that would otherwise not overwinter outside. Taken early in September and placed around a pot of Levington Seed & Cutting Compost they should easily root in just a few weeks. They can then be potted on individually in 7cm square pots of Miracle-Gro All Purpose Enriched Compost before cold weather arises and then stored on a frost-free windowsill for the rest of the winter.

Bulb planting starts in September with crocus and daffodils and narcissi. Planting of this huge family of bulbs should be complete by the end of September as the bulbs throw fresh roots in the autumn, although they make little or no top growth. To supplement your existing daffodil collection think about the time when they flower and fill in the gaps with newer varieties. When shopping it’s worth remembering that the specie narcissi and miniatures are the earliest – blooming in February and early March. From the middle of March the trumpets start to show with Golden Harvest and Dutch Master some of the earliest. Before the middle of April the medium and small cupped varieties are in full bloom, closely followed by the double such as Golden Ducat and Texas. The starry-eyed Poeticus varieties are at their best from mid April right into May.

This is a great time to get rid of deep rooted perennial weeds that may be growing through from next door’s garden. Couch grass, docks and bindweed are particular culprits although bracken, bramble and perennial nettles may also be growing strongly in amongst your wanted plants or on waste ground. Spraying weed foliage with a glyphosate-based weedkiller such as Roundup GC or Weedol Rootkill Plus is the sure way to kill the roots of the weeds as well as the above-ground foliage and stems. Use the dilution rate recommended on the pack and spray all the weed foliage on a calm, dry day when rain is not expected. The new Roundup Gel formulation is ideal for safely treating bindweed mixed with wanted plants as the application can be accurate to just the weed foliage. If using a spray, you can protect your wanted shrubs from picking up any drift of weedkiller with large piece of cardboard so that the spray only wets the target weeds. Keep this in place until the spray dries on the weed leaves and there is minimal risk to your wanted plants.

Topical Tip
As soon as prepared hyacinths are available for Christmas flowering, place these in the special hyacinth glasses so they are just above water level. They will soon develop roots ready for mid-winter flowering.

Evergreen shrubs growing in pots may need watering regularly to ensure they survive any warm, dry spells at the end of summer. This is particularly important with ericaceous shrubs such as camellias and rhododendrons growing in pots as dryness at the roots can stimulate the plant to drop all the buds for next years flowers. Watering ericaceous plants is always best with rainwater rather than tap water so check you water butt is collecting this precious commodity whenever showers fall. Don’t be tempted to add a soluble feed to the water after the end of summer. Unfortunately nutrients applied in the autumn will also encourage bud-drop so it’s always wise to restrict feeding of spring-flowering shrubs to the spring and summer only.

Patio pots should now be planted up with all manner of bulbs and topped off with autumn and spring bedding including wallflowers, pansies, violas and polyanthus. This will make a great display that can take over from summer bedding almost immediately.

For a long-lasting display of bulbs it’s worth planting several layers in one pot. Start by adding some compost in a deep pot and then spread out several daffodils at the lowest level. Cover with more compost and then place several tulip bulbs around the compost surface. The final bulb layer could be either miniature daffodils such as Tete-a-Tete or early flowering
crocus. Fill up with more compost and then plant up your chosen flowering bedding such as viola or winter pansies.

Other bulbs that need planting either in the flower borders or in large pots and containers include trumpet types (Regale and Pink Perfection) oriental (Stargazer and Casa Blanca) and asiatic lilies which come in so many colours and forms. Even more suitable for patio pots are the new Pixie Lilies, that are dwarf strains of Asiatic Hybrids. They make sturdy plants that need no additional support and come in many different colours including orange, ice white, crimson and butter yellow.

Topical Tip
Patio roses growing in pots deserve a final spray with RoseClear Ultra Gun! to give good control of blackspot and powdery mildew that often starts showing at the beginning of autumn.

As the summer comes to an end, it’s time to prepare the lawn for winter so that it wakes up fresh and green next spring and ready to be an attractive foil to all those spring blooms that will be popping out in March and April.

First autumn job is to rake the surface to remove any thatch that may have built up over the summer. This layer of dead grass if not removed will eventually prevent rainwater from keeping the soil moist, but will also encourage disease. A spring-tine rake or mechanical raker will do the job quickly opening up the surface and lifting any creeping grass stems that have developed.

The next job is to spike the area to reduce compaction and let air into the root area. This will improve drainage and reduce the water-holding capacity of the top soil layer. If you have a specific area where moss always grows you could consider taking out plugs of soil with a hollow-tine fork and filling the resulting holes with sharp sand. This will give you long-term improvement to drainage and if repeated every autumn will help to get rid of the moss problem.

After the continuous rain of summer, any nutrients in the lawn soil will have been washed away and your grass may be pale and dull after a summer of mowing and hard wear.

To improve the colour and vigour of the remaining grass apply a dressing of EverGreen Autumn to the complete area. This is the ideal time to strengthen grass roots, thicken the lawn and control moss that may have appeared. This special autumn lawn treatment does all these jobs in a single application, making sure your lawn has the strength to survive the worst of winter weather. With the balance of nutrients designed for this time of year, this autumn treatment also ensures your lawn has the energy to spring back to life the following season.

This lawn stimulation may well also thicken the grass so that it naturally fills in small bare patches, but if the patches are too big for this you will need to add extra grass seed to do the job.

The easiest way is with Patch Magic! To repair a patch in your lawn remove the dead grass and loosen the soil with a garden rake. Apply 3mm of Patch Magic over bare patches, or 1.5mm over thin areas of grass. Water in until it turns dark brown and begins to expand. The unique compressed coir material absorbs water like a sponge, expanding instantly and changing colour to show it is surrounding each seed in a dark, moist, protective layer. It continues to care for the seeds, providing them with nutrients and holding water right next to the seed. This improves establishment offering a patching mix that really works.

Topical Tip
Continue to mow the grass regularly, but raising the height of cut gradually so the grass stems are left 50 per cent longer than the summer cut.

Some top fruit ripen earlier than others. In a normal season apples such as Ellison’s Orange, James Grieve and Egremont Russet should ripen in September as will Conference pears. But this year’s dull summer may see them take an extra few weeks to be sweet and full flavoured.

To pick the perfect fruit for eating, cup a large fruit in your hand and lift it up, twisting slightly. If it comes away easily it should be ready to eat. If a sharp tug won’t dislodge the fruit, try again in a week’s time. Don’t wait for windfalls to indicate ripeness – picked off the ground they are only useful for cooking or the compost heap.

Conference pears don’t store well, as they are fit for eating after just a few days in the fruit bowl. But many varieties of apples can be stored when ripe for later eating. These include Fiesta, Egremont Russet, Cox’s Orange Pippin and Golden Delicious.

Topical Tip
Keep picking raspberries regularly from Autumn Bliss and other late croppers including Fall Gold (yellow) and Zeva (red).

Crops for current picking should include plenty of runner and French beans, beetroot, courgettes, cucumbers and butternut squash. Tomatoes that haven’t been affected by blight should also be producing tasty fruits, but that may only be those growing with some protection from rain in a greenhouse or conservatory. To ripen the tomatoes that have set continue to feed the plants with a seaweed rich plant food such as Liquid Tomorite. Diluted in a watering can every 10 days or so it will do wonders in encouraging tastier crops.
Sweetcorn is taking longer this year to come to maturity, although it’s worth checking the ripeness of the kernels as soon as the tassels turn brown. Lack of sunshine has slowed growth so that crops are taking several weeks longer to be ripe enough for cooking. To keep plants growing strongly apply a foliar feed of Miracle-Gro Soluble Plant Food over the foliage every week.

Every two or three years I dig and divide my established globe artichokes to keep the stock young and vigorous. I use a sharp spade to divide up the crown into smaller slips and plant these rooted suckers in soil that has been improved with old compost from my Growing bags and a good handful of Miracle-Gro Continuous Release General Purpose Plant Food. When planted 1 metre apart they have room to thrive and to develop plenty of delicious flower buds that are eaten from July to September.
Winter brassicas including Brussels sprouts, sprouting broccoli and winter cabbage will benefit from a late summer dressing of a general plant food like Growmore and the soil firmed with a heal around the roots. With taller growing sprouts and broccoli it’s worth staking the crop and covering with netting if pigeons are a local problem. To ensure the netting remains at the full height, I run wires well above the top of the plants so that even when these pests rest on the protective covering their weight doesn’t allow the netting to sink down to foliage height. They are canny monsters and will strip any green vegetation from the cabbage family when the weather turns cold.
Crops that can be sown now include lettuce and salad leaves such as Chinese cabbage, winter spinach (chard) turnips for their green tops and spring cabbage.

Always read the label and product information before use.
FungusClear Ultra contains triticonazole. EverGreen Autumn contains ferrous sulphate. Roseclear® Ultra Gun! contains triticonazole and acetamiprid. Roundup GC contains glyphosate. Weedol Rootkill Plus contains glyphosate and pyraflufen- ethyl.

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