Autumn is approaching and Rosemary Verey has some timely advice to ease the gardener into that time of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Hardwood cuttings are easy. We have a well-drained shady bed where cuttings 10-12 inches long are lined out, with half their length buried. For an extra shrub or two put these round the parent plant. By late spring they will have enough roots to move them to their permanent home. Try ribes, spiraea, privet, rue, honeysuckle, philadelphus, weigela, hebes and willows.
Seed gathering continues into the September programme. Gather seeds in paper bags, then transfer them into sealed envelopes and store them in your fridge. Sow some now in drills and watch out for slugs eating the young growth.
As your bulbs arrive, if you have ordered them by post, open the packets and stand them in a cool corner, preferably on a table so the mice don’t get at them. List them and note which bed they will go in. Over the years I have tried to keep each bed to a colour theme, especially for spring. Bed 1 has white and yellow, bed 2 white and pink, bed 3 stronger pinks with Tulip ‘Mariette’ and T. ‘China Pink’. Bed 4 has a variety of tulips in the purple spectrum to go with the hellebores and honesty. Our tulips are always underplanted with forget-me-nots.
Dead-head where necessary allowing some attractive seed heads to remain. Make sure you have enough mulching material, leaf mould, mushroom compost and Cocoa Shell (Sunshine of Africa) to cover the borders as they are finally put to bed. September is a ‘go-between’ time and you must be restrained but also look ahead. It is not possible to make a complete clearance in any border, but we take small areas where the penstemon or lobelias are past their best, dig and pot them and keep them in the polytunnel for next year. Your first tulips and special narcissus can go in groups in their place. Remember to label your dahlias before the frost cuts them down. Eventually, dig and store them for next year. You can also plan to clip your yew hedges.
Get into my favourite place, the vegetable garden, and enjoy the fruits of the earth and your summer labour. Earth up celery, leeks and cardoons. Lift your onions, letting them dry completely before storing. Harvest your main crop of potatoes. Pick all squashes and pumpkins and the remaining courgettes before the frosts get them and watch that special marrow you are growing for harvest festival. Outdoor tomatoes must be harvested, bringing unripened fruit indoors to store in a dark kitchen drawer – keep a daily watch on them. Sow more lettuces, oriental salads, spinach and parsley.