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Gardening Holding Page

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Pots & Containers

Clear out the summer baskets and pots, clean thoroughly then replenish with cyclamen, pansies, viola and grasses to give colour and interest through to early spring.  Think about new places for groups of pots and containers - maybe some shade loving plants grouped under a tree or in front of a north-facing hedge. Experiment with plants not used before; most gardens have somewhere where nothing normally grows that can be used for all sorts of things in containers.


Whilst summer containers are fine in a number of mediums, china, plastic, metal, etc. it’s best to use frost free clay, stone or wood for winter planting to give container plants a better chance of survival.  Even so, care must be taken not to overwater and cause waterlogging which could seriously damage roots.  Evergreens in particular, as they do not go dormant in winter, need protection and careful monitoring.  Bubblewrap is obviously a good choice to wrap around the pots, but why not get creative and get hold of a load of sacking , vegetable dye and thick string and have fun making colourful jackets for those pots?


Roses will need to have a light prune to avoid wind rock during the winter months when there’s a higher risk of high winds. Whist doing that, also check for any damaged or crossing stems that should be removed. Remove any missed weeds around the base of bushes, then scatter some fertilizer pellets topped with a mulch of compost.


October is also a good time to take semi-hardwood cuttings from roses. Whist they say this a very easy thing to do, I have never been successful and I've no idea why! I follow all the instructions, but it doesn't happen. I have, a few times, planted up a small pot grown indoor rose for an outside table and this always works - I currently have four that are all flourishing. Not to be daunted, I do try the traditional way every year.


Take hardwood cuttings from shrubs such as buddleia, berberis, cotoneaster, jasmine, philadelphus. There are many more, including fruit bushes, so it’s worth checking your books and the internet for further information as to which take readily. Ensure you cut from a healthy, quite thick stem and remove any leaf growth, but retain buds, before inserting into a suitable soil-based compost. Keep the cutting moist, but not wet.


Take cuttings of pelargonium by snipping off about 8-10cm from the tops of new growth just above a leaf node. Remove the lower leaves and place into a pot filled with potting mix. Some plants do well if you dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone, but with pelargonium, it can make the ends of the stem go soft and lead to root rot and other fungal diseases.

Keep your newly potted plants indoors in a warm, sunny window, uncovered, and, after a few weeks, new roots will form. Water sparingly and pinch out new growing tips at the top of the plant to achieve a bushier plant.  They can be planted out in late spring next year once danger of frost has gone.


My absolute favourite subject! I have 3 compost bins plus one of those kitchen Bokashi ones - I put the final full bin of mush into the big garden bins, so, although you can, I choose not to add raw or cooked meat into that.  I also have a bucket to fill with torn cardboard as it's imperative to have a 50/50 mix of green and brown in the bins.  October is a good month to spread compost across empty veggie beds and around flower beds once perennials have been cut back to ground level. There's really no need to dig compost in as the wee beasties will do the work for you.


If you're lucky enough to have space for 2 or 3 compost bins, there should always be some lovely, crumbly compost available - and it's free! The only thing a home composter won't do is heat up enough to kill weed seeds, so take care not to add weeds that are in flower or still have their seed heads. Nettle has an abundance of nutrients, for example, but only add those before their heads appear or cut them off if showing. And never put in the roots!

Soil Preparation

Autumn is traditionally planting time and, even though the way plants are sold these days planting can be at any time, I still think this is the best season to give new plants time to settle and get used to new surroundings and soil type.  Preparation is also key to strong plants and this, of course, starts with how the soil is and, once amalgamated with plenty of organic matter, sand and grit, there should be little to do except add a layer of compost each autumn and rake lightly in or let the insects do the rest. It is also important that soil be able to build its own structure and not to allow compaction, so feet off and boards down if needing to get through a bed!


Spring flowering shrubs, such as weigela, philadelphus, deutzia, should be pruned by about a third to encourage new shoots for next year and, as always to make for an open, airy bush so that light can get right in. Mulch well around the trunks, but not touching the bark, to aid moisture retention and suppress weeds. Make sure any damaged or crossing stems are removed. Crossing stems can rub against one another in the wind causing bruising and possible infection.  Keep an eye on any rambling or climbing roses as these will be galloping ahead this month and will need to be tied in to ensure the plant doesn’t fall forward once the heavy blossoms are abundant.

A timely reminder on how to take softwood cuttings – increase your stock without spending a penny! With a sharp blade, cut just below a node 3-5” long and at a slant. Remove any lower leaves and pinch out the soft tip. Dip the bottom into some rooting hormone and shake off the excess. Push 4 or 5 into a 6” or 8” pot around the sides and water in.  Keep moist, but not wet. Once the new roots show out of the base of the pot, the plantlets can be potted onto to individual pots.

The vegetable plot is really beginning to come alive as peas and beans start scrambling up their canes, salad crops are fattening up, onions and shallots with rounded, bush-like green.  Mulch around the base of beans, peas, courgettes, etc to aid water retention. Keep an eye on autumn planted garlic as, once the leaves start to turn yellow, they can be harvested and stored. Early potatoes can also be harvested, though I tend to leave mine in the ground and help myself as and when I need them.  Continue thinning out salad crops and root vegetables, removing any weed seedlings that may appear.

Keep checking tomato plants and make sure you nip out new growth in the axis of stem and leaf stalk as these produce nothing and take goodness away from the main plant and ultimate fruit. Feed once a week once flowers appear and continue to tie into the stake as the plant grows. Stop the plant producing new growth once you have 4-5 trusses by nipping out the growing tip.


Continue dead-heading roses or cut for the house and, once the first flush of flowers is done, hoe in some fertilizer around the plants to further encourage more blooms.  Similarly, plants like cosmos, scabious, geum that have a long flowering period are encouraged to keep producing blooms if regularly dead-headed and fertilized.  Lupin and delphinium if cut right back to ground level sometimes grow a second display. 

If you have a cool, shady spot that could do with brightening up, plant up different sized ferns of varying shades of green and these, interspersed with some pale coloured flowering plants can look quite dramatic. I tend to think that shady places don’t look quite right with brash colour! Do remember how big a fern can grow, as they couId drown out nearby plants. Plant a few spring bulbs here and there in the autumn for interest whilst waiting for ferns to re-appear in early summer.

One job we tend to forget about is dividing Narcissus.  They multiply in clumps over the years and will eventually be so busy competing with each other that they forget to bloom!  So division is essential to maintain healthy bulbs.  Once their foliage has completely died down, dig them up and carefully separate individual bulbs.  They can either be re-planted straight away or stored in a cool dry place until the autumn.  Going back a few weeks, I reminded someone about deadheading daffs to allow goodness to flow back into the bulb rather than developing seedheads – “What about those in that abound in the woods?” she asked. “Ah!” I replied. “The elves do it”…

Sow further carrots this month and have a go at the lovely different coloured ones that look so good on the dinner plate and are just as easy to grow. Also turnips that have rapid maturity.  Sow more lettuce, though they will now need extra watering to ensure a good healthy plant.  It’s not too late either for sowing beetroot, spinach beet and chard.  Leeks sown earlier in the year can now be planted up in their growing space. Shallots and garlic will need ripening in the sun, so push away some of the soil from the bulb.  If the weather forecast shows wet and rainy, though, they will need to be carefully dug up and stored in a cool dry place to avoid the bulbs from spoiling.

Continue regular watering and feeding tomatoes and chillis in the greenhouse. Tomato plants should be stopped by pinching out the growing tip after 4-5 trusses have appeared as anything after that will be weaker.  Continue also to pinch out side shoots that appear between leaf stem and main stem.  Water with feed generously on a regular basis rather than spasmodic dribbles to ensure lush, healthy fruit.

The blade height on your mower can start being lowered until you’ve achieved your preferred grass height. Remember to cut in a different direction each time you mow as this helps the grass to maintain a healthy and good looking sward of upright grass blades.  If you have a mulching mower or a mulch plug for your normal one, do use this at least twice a year, making sure the cut height allows only to snip the tops of the grass, to allow tiny blades of grass to fall and feed the soil. No bag emptying or lawn clearing – has to be an added bonus!

Watering during the summer months is, of course, important, but not all plants require the same attention.  As a general rule, grey or hairy leaved plants, that tend to originate in Mediterranean regions, need less water than the soft, lush green ones.  Pots, tubs and hanging baskets should be checked daily as there is no sub-soil for moisture to be retained - even herbs in pots can dry out quite quickly.

Spring Bulbs

Start planting up spring bulbs ensuring they’re planted to a depth of at least twice the length of the bulb as this gives a stronger hold in the ground once the plant starts to form. Scatter some bulb fibre around in the base of each hole, push well in, cover and water. Plant in drifts and clumps here, there and everywhere to give a natural flow throughout the garden. I always think that, unlike perennial beds, there needn’t be any structure to spring bulbs – some people just throw handfuls and plant where they land. Excellent idea! 


Once all your spring bulbs have been planted, attention can turn to tulips which are better left until the end of the month.  Tulips need good sunlight, so choose your site well and try to avoid planting in deep herbaceous borders as other plants with strong foliage will kill them off; Iris are a good bedfellow as they like similar conditions and both could then stay in position for many years.  Make sure you lay a good spread of grit into the bottom of a trench or holes where the bulbs are to be planted as tulips do not like their feet staying too wet and that they are planted at least twice their depth in the ground.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

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