AS the colours begin to subtly change, with a chill in the morning air, autumn is beginning to make an appearance in the garden with hints of golds, oranges and reds in leaves, and plenty of fruits ripening all around us.
If the weeds took over a bit this year in the garden, as they did for me, then the positive side to this is there looks to be a good crop of blackberries developing on the brambles, so not getting to those arching stems earlier this summer means that the freezer can be filled now.
It’s always best to harvest these black beauties on a dry and warm day when the fruit is a rich black colour and easy to pluck from the stems.
Rain can quickly deteriorate the crop so the sun this September is very beneficial for its harvesting, and indeed other fruit currently ripening. Plums are ripening nicely and apple and pear trees are heavy with fruit.
There are plenty of rose hips introducing bright reds and oranges to hedges and borders. It is certainly a time of plenty, and collections are well underway with methods of preservation for the winter months ahead high on the priority list of jobs to do.
Wasps can do a lot of damage, especially if fruit is ripe and full of sugar, so keep an eye on what needs to be picked and get it out of harm’s way before the wasps find it.
Apples are best picked when they are firm with a good colour, they will snap off of the tree easily which gives a good indication of ripeness.
Windfalls can be used if they are not too damaged and are swiftly collected after falling to the ground.
Pears are picked when they are hard and are ripened off of the tree at room temperature, which can take 8-10 days. Figs are also ready for harvesting now as are the delicious autumn raspberries.
Freezing fruit is a great way to ensure a supply for the months ahead and now is traditionally a busy time for making jams, chutneys and preserves of all sorts. A busy time in the garden and also the kitchen!
It is all about harvesting in the garden and about now is also a great time for collecting some of your own seeds in the garden. It is a great way of multiplying stocks and collecting seeds of particularly good plants for sharing, and saving money in the process. Seed should be collected on a dry, warm day ideally to ensure they are already naturally drying as they ripen while still on the plant.
Place harvested seed into brown paper bag, be sure to label and store in a cool, dry place until there is time to process and clean the seed later in the season.
Consider collecting seed and preparing it as Christmas gifts for gardening friends, it is a very personal and thoughtful gift from your own garden.
Choosing some plants to collect for use in dried flower arrangements can be done now also. Some grasses make excellent dried specimens and some seed heads can add some texture and interest to flower arrangements.
It is all trial and error when beginning drying seed heads, and it is worth giving drying out a try with seed heads that have appealing texture and structure. It may not always work out but it is worth having a go and picking dried seed heads and hanging them upside down in a dark, cool and dry spot to see how it goes.
Generally, it does help if the material has started naturally drying out on the plant; phlomis, veronicastrum, eryngium, miscanthus, calamagrostis, allium and lunaria are all seed heads that can be collected now for use over the winter.
It is a little early for hydrangea flower heads as they have not begun drying out on the plants yet.
It’s timely now also to start taking cuttings of tender perennials that may not make it through the winter months, plants like salvias, dahlias, penstemons, plectranthus and pelargoniums can all be propagated by cutting now and kept under cover for the winter months and potted in the springtime.
Tender shrubs like fuchsia and hebe can be propagated now as an insurance policy should we have a cold winter.