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Gardening tips - getting ready for Autumn

PUBLISHED: 00:08 05 September 2013

Helenium autumnale

Helenium autumnale

Archant

Get ready for autumn with the help of Dan Booth, head gardener at Brodsworth Hall, near Doncaster

September can be a month of changeable weather and noticeably shorter days which means less time for gardening so you need to make the most of any dry spells whilst keeping an eye out for the first frost. Extending the flowering of your planters and perennials into the autumn may be more challenging than usual following this summer’s heat wave but regular dead heading and attentive watering will ensure you have a good display for as long as possible.

The lingering summer warmth also means September is a good time to plant new perennials, allowing roots to establish before the cold sets in. At Brodsworth our late summer border by the Rose Garden is still full of Helenium, Rudbeckia and Helianthemum which should flower right up to the first heavy frost. If your herbaceous plants have started to go over you could begin to divide them this month too but make sure that you water the divisions in well if the weather is dry as they may still be growing a little.

If you heeded my advice in last month’s magazine you will have got your spring bulbs ordered ready for planting at the end of this month. Take care to plant at the right depth as this can affect flowering, some bulbs may not appear at all if planted incorrectly. Tulips for example should be planted between six and eight inches deep depending on the size of the bulb whereas cyclamen are planted with the top of the corm poking through the surface of the soil.

At Brodsworth we have planted cyclamen in between some of the ferns in the Fern Dell and they make great partners with the bright pink or white flowers of the glossy green fronds. It is very important to regularly incorporate organic matter into any area where you grow bedding plants frequently as these annual (some perennial too) show-offs are very hungry and can quickly drain the soil of nutrients. Doing this at the end of September or early October should mean the soil is still relatively warm which is better for earthworm activity and you need the gardener’s best friend to help mix the soil and organic matter together.

Towards the end of September and depending where you live, you may have to start thinking about protecting more tender plants from frost. Some plants such as Canna and Dahlia can be lifted after the first frost and dry-stored over the winter but others may need more creative measures.

Traditional methods of using straw, bracken or just a good heap of mulch still work well today for small plants or those overwintering underground. For slightly larger examples a cloche of some description may also be appropriate. If, like us, you have bigger things to worry about such as tree ferns, it gets a little more awkward. This is what we do: wrap the trunk or main stems in a single layer of frost fleece material and then a layer of hessian. The hessian does provide some insulation but is more a cosmetic thing. Tie this around with garden twine.

Loosely pack the crown with plenty of straw and then, to stop the wind blowing straw all over the garden or the birds stealing it all for their nests in February, use a plastic plant pot of an appropriate size with slots cut in for any fronds or branches to hold it in place. Get ready soon to net off any ponds or cascades before autumn and the seemingly endless leaf fall begins once again.

Jobs for September

Vent glasshouses on hot days

Clip hedges

Collect and sow seeds of annuals and perennials

Continue hoeing and weeding as required

Keep an eye out for powdery mildew during dry spells

Spray perennials weeds with a glyphosate-based herbicide

Top tip

Buy an adjustable springbok rake. An invaluable tool for retrieving leaves and other detritus from those hard to reach spots!

Brodsworth Hall is a beautiful Victorian country house surrounded by a collection of grand gardens in miniature lovingly restored to their original splendour. For more information contact Brodsworth Hall & Gardens, Brodsworth, Doncaster, DN5 7XJ

01302 722598

english-heritage.org.uk/brodsworth

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