Autumn is just the right time to start thinking about spring bedding plants. If you want a good show, now is the time to plant while the soil is still warm enough to encourage germination. It’s also damper than in high summer so the plants will become well established before the rigors of winter stop all growth. Make sure all early flowering bulbs are in too. Later blooming ones like tulips however, can be left till later on. You can also sow hardy annuals in more sheltered parts of your garden. Don’t forget to label what you have sown though, it’s easy to forget.
This is the time to have a general clean-up. Get rid of all the old leaf litter – put it on the bonfire not the compost heap. There may be weed seeds and insect pests hiding that would be better destroyed. Placing them on the compost heap could be laying up problems for next year. Pay particular attention to the areas under hedges and shrubs. Rake them out, loosen the soil and, if you feel like it, lay down a thick mulch, stone chippings or gravel are excellent in this position and they look attractive as well.
Tidy up the borders and beds, cut the edges straight, take out the weeds, remove dead and dying herbage, dead-head plants that are still blooming then hoe and rake over the soil. Search amongst the stems of plants that grow in clumps. You are sure to find snails bedding down cosily, remove them.
Evergreens may be planted at this time of year, choose container or root-balled specimens. Plant them in prepared holes of sufficient size and water well in. Apply a thick mulch – pulverised bark is ideal, but don’t extend it right up to the plant’s stem. If you buy bare rooted trees, they should not be planted until all the leaves have fallen, so don’t buy them until then.
Check over all your climbing plants. Make sure they are firmly fixed to wall or trellis and re-tie them where necessary. If you have trellises or climbing frames, it’s worth checking they are firmly fixed to their supports before winter winds blow them down. Young trees that still have supports must be firmly fixed to the supports but don’t use string or twine. Special straps will keep them secure without rubbing the bark away during wind caused friction.
As the season draws on it is time to take tender plants indoors. Geraniums, fuchsias, begonias, spider plants and other tender foliage subjects should be transplanted to pots and taken indoors. A cold greenhouse is ideal, as long as the vents are closed at night. Failing that, a garage or shed windowsill or windowsill in a spare room will do. They should be kept cool but not allowed to freeze.
In the greenhouse, clean all the glass so the maximum amount of light can get in. Replace cracked and broken lights and check for gaps where rodents may get in. Block each one securely or your plant stock may end up eaten.