A to-do list for gardeners as autumn looms

In her weekly column Olive Ryan tells us what we should be doing in our gardens this month
A to-do list for gardeners as autumn looms

A fine collection ofEchinaceasright nowat Patthana garden, Kilteagan,Co.Wicklow. Picture: Patthana Gardens

AS September arrives and we return to more structure and routine after a summer of gallivanting and enjoying the sunshine, it is time to get to work on the garden to prolong the feeling of summer and sunshine.

A minimum of work at this time of the year will help to ensure that the enjoyment of the garden is fulfilled until the autumn begins to make itself felt.

Overall, we did enjoy a summer this year and a few weeks in July saw temperatures in the twenties with no rain to report. The past two weeks have finished off the summer nicely with a return to sunshine and warm temperatures after a few weeks of intermittent rainfall. Ideal for plants and humans alike really.

Now the garden is starting to look tired as it has flowered its socks off all summer, so what can we do to keep the show going? There are a number of key jobs right now, among them:

Dead heading will ensure continued flowering, particularly of annual plants in hanging baskets and window boxes as well as the reliable roses.

Regular weekly feeding with tomato food will encourage flowering and provide excellent results while the temperatures are still favourable and sunshine prevails.

Some selective cutting back of perennials likely to repeat flower can help continue the display. If you look closely at some herbaceous geraniums and other perennials, a second flush of growth may have already begun at the centre of the plant, simply cut off the outer old growth and await the second display! 

Clearing away tired and spent foliage and flowers can give renewed life to a bed or border.

Water selectively during dry spells, watching out particularly for plants that like a moisture-retentive soil like Hydrangea and Eupatorium. Generally, plants that need lots of water will let you know that they are suffering by wilting and some speedy intervention with the watering can will remedy the situation with no long term damage done.

Sowing green manures now as crops are harvested and the soil is bare, is a great way of covering the soil in preparation for the winter ahead and locking nutrients into the soil. Clovers, rye grass and phacelia are all good options for this time of the year, check out fruithill farm for a suitable range of winter green manures.

Do not mow that lawn too tightly as it will encourage the development of moss. Areas of long grass that have had paths mown through this summer will need to be cut down soon and the resulting long grass removed to the compost heap. It is really amazing what edging a bed can do at this time of the year as it crisps up a tired and undefined display and gives some new life for a few more weeks.

Hedges should be cut now to give them a chance to put on some growth before the winter months and the clippings added to the compost heap. It really is peak composting time right now and just great to watch the heap of organic material removed from the garden reduce so quickly as it breaks down to form garden compost.

There is a very notable difference in the speed of breakdown once the temperatures reduce later in the autumn, for now the temperatures are high and microbial activity in the green waste is working overtime to create ‘brown gold’ for use in the garden next spring.

The only ingredient that may be lacking is water during times of no rainfall, so do consider this if your heap is not reducing as quickly as it should be and remedy the situation by watering with a hose or watering can.

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