Thinking ahead in Gardening by Sue Sargeant, passionate gardener, novice writer.
A summer garden is made in late autumn/early winter and your plant heroes deserve some extra TLC in these next few months.
There’s no doubt that this year in particular has been a very challenging time for the garden. The excessive heat and lack of rainfall has taken its toll on plants, trees, shrubs and, of course, our grass.
It’s surprising how quickly the garden will recover with a little care and attention over the next couple of months. Here are a few things to consider in preparation for your 2020 garden.
Take stock and take action
We all make mistakes and each year we learn more about our gardens and what our plants need so now is the perfect time to address any issues. What has done well and what needs to stay in place? If a particular plant has flourished, consider buying more of the same or even propagating from the parent plant. Repeat planting in the border gives a very professional look as it draws the eye along the border and provides good continuity.
Consider moving shrubs that would benefit from a new position. This might be because it’s in the wrong location for its size or specific growing conditions. Some shrubs find the direct heat too much and the leaves start to burn, so moving them to a shady spot may help to protect the foliage.
Replace plants that have died. You can check by running your thumb nail down the stem, if it’s still green, it’s still alive. If so, trim the shrub into a good open shape, keep it moist and give it a good mulch to keep the roots warm. In spring you should see evidence of buds appearing.
Trim back Perennials that have stopped flowering, after you have collected any dry seed heads for sowing in spring. Mulch all flower beds with compost or leaves.
Plant spring flowering bulbs. Start with Daffodils and Narcissus leaving the Tulips until after the first frost. Tulips may suffer from Botrytis blight which lies dormant in the soil but is killed by frost. Containers can also be planted with bulbs for flowering in spring.
Try to keep lawns free of fallen leaves. Rotting leaves encourage fungus and bare patches in the lawn. Rake them into piles and transfer to the compost heap. Leaves take six to nine months to decompose but green material, such as kitchen waste and grass cuttings, help to speed up the process.
Compost heaps need to be turned regularly. This is a great job on a cold morning, keeping you fit and warm. Try to ensure the the heaps are located out of sight but close enough to your borders for easy access. (You can find Sue’s Perfect Compost Recipe in the Sep/Oct 2018 issue of The Local Buzz.)
Protect tender plants
A sudden drop in temperature can do the most damage. The wind chill factor in exposed areas should never be underestimated, along with the early sunrise after a frosty night which will often scorch the leaves of tender shrubs.
Before the first sign of frost, wrap shrubs in horticultural fleece and secure with string. Any large plants in pots can be grouped together against a sunny wall for addition protection. Always check your containers to see if they are frost proof, especially those that are glazed. An additional layer of bubble wrap should give good protection if you can’t find suitable frost proof space inside.
Tropical plants such as Bananas can be reduced in size then wrapped in mesh filled with leaves. This protection needs to remain in place until after the last frost. Try to keep the stems as dry as possible, if they get too wet they will probably freeze and die. Alternatively you can dig them up and repot in a large container to be stored in a shed or greenhouse.
Thinking ahead in gardening please don’t forget to give your tools some TLC too. Clean and lubricate your small tools. Make sure you give special attention to secateurs and loppers as they can easily introduce diseases into stems, so keep them sterile.
Arrange for your mowers to be serviced ready for spring, sharpen your chainsaws and give your strimmers a good clean. If you are planning a tree pruning session over winter, think about hiring or buying a shredder. This will be a good investment as the wood shavings are excellent as a winter mulch and it helps to avoids trips to the déchetterie.
Finally, on the very chilly days you can browse through those seed catalogues by the fire thinking about your gardening year ahead.
First published in the November/December 2019 issue of The Local Buzz