Diarmuid Gavin: Autumn errands to rejuvenate your garden for next year
There's loads to be done this month to repair, rejuvenate and prepare your garden for next year
Despite the unseasonably warm weather, we are well and truly into autumn, so it's time to pull on some boots for some serious gardening. Autumn is the season for giving something back to your plot. So let's take a look at some areas of the garden which may benefit from attention:
Plan your rotations of vegetables now, so you're not planting the same type of veg in the same patch each year as soil diseases may build up. I have spread a thick layer of horse manure over my raised beds. Rather than digging it in, I'm hoping earthworms will incorporate it into the soil (too much digging can destroy soil structure). Weeds and any stones which have worked their way to the surface should be removed, but after that simply fork it over. I have some lambs lettuce growing away but as we could get frost any of these evenings, I will cover these with a cloche. Over the next week or two I'm going to pop in some garlic and onion sets.
It's time to clear any fallen fruit and leaves. These are best burnt rather than added to the compost heap as they can overwinter many pests and fungi that plague fruit trees. Ensure there is no rotting fruit on the trees as this will also harbour disease. It's a great time of year to be planting new fruit trees. Bare root planting takes place in four to six weeks once plants have become dormant, but container-grown plants can be put in straight away. Finally, apply grease bands at the bottom of your fruit trees which will prevent wingless moths crawling up to lay their eggs.
In the front garden, the birch tree leaves are turning gold and shedding. Normally, I collect the leaves for composting but this year I am going to leave them in the beds and let them decompose and mimic a more natural woodland environment.
I will, however, be raking leaves off the lawn as that can cause the grass underneath to rot. Because of mild temperatures, the grass is still growing so needs a mowing. Any holes in the lawn can be repaired in two ways: fill in holes with soil, sprinkle with seed and water, or, rob a bit of grass from a less conspicuous area and fill in the gaps. You can aerate the lawn by stabbing the ground with a garden fork. If your soil is waterlogged, use a hollow tine which removes plugs of soil that can then be filled in with sand or grit. Serious drainage problems need to be addressed by an expert.
The garden pond will also be going into hibernation. After a few years of neglect, we cleaned out our ponds and planted some water lilies. Remove and clean the pump if you have one. Thin out oxygenating plants if these have taken over, and remove debris from the bottom, being careful not to puncture the lining. If your pond is near a tree, consider covering with a net to stop leaves falling - these will rot and produce gases poisonous to fish.
After all that work, it's time for a reward. Pop to the garden centre and buy a tray of winter pansies and primulas. Clear away summer bedding and cheer up the pots around your front door with a new display.