Thursday, 27 October 2011

End of the Growing Season


 Garden tasks continue throughout every season. As soon as the summer ends, autumn tasks take priority. We need to save perennial plants for another year, e.g. Begonias and gladioli, propagate geraniums to retain good varieties for next year and plant up some spring flowering plants such as Iceland poppies. Harvesting crops continues with grapes and apples, and still plenty of vegetables from the allotment.

Lift tubers and corms

Both gladioli and tuberous begonias have been brilliant this year, seemingly unaffected by the lack of warmth in summer and more rain than we need or want. However their season is now over and the tubers and corms should be lifted and dried out for safe storage over winter. I retain the dry soil that falls off them to cover them in their polystyrene boxes kept in my frost free garage. The gladioli get cleaned up and all the small bulbils removed. Any that are a decent size get retained for the next year when they are planted thickly like a row of peas. They may not flower the first year, but will bulk up to a small corm for flowering the next year.


Geranium cuttings are taken before the cool weather kills off the flowers as I need to know which variety is which. Take shoots about three inches long by breaking them cleanly at a joint and removing the lower leaves otherwise they will lose too much moisture. They really only need one or two small terminal leaves, and I never use rooting hormone as they root very easily. Insert about four or five around the edge of a seed pan and place them in a light and warm but not sunny place.
They should root after a few weeks and be ready for potting up in early winter.
Impatiens, (Busy Lizzies) can be propagated from cuttings now before they die off in the cold weather. I take shoots about three inches long removing the lower leaves and stick them together in narrow jars filled with water. They seem to enjoy this and root quickly into the water. Once they are well rooted, remove them and pot them up. They can be overwintered on a windowsill where they will flower as the perfect house plant.
Saskatoon seeds sown outdoors in cellular seed trays a few weeks ago, after a period of six weeks in the fridge have started to germinate. This was not planned, and if they continue to germinate they will have to be overwintered in my cold greenhouse otherwise the young seedlings may suffer from frosts.


Iceland poppies grown from home saved seed and potted up in early summer can now be planted out where they are to flower in spring. I plant mine on steep banks where the drainage is excellent and I have naturalised drifts of tulips. Although you cannot see where the tulips are, and may chop through a few, they are very robust and don’t seem to come to any harm. They blend in very well with the poppies.
Wallflowers grown from seed are very slow to bulk up so I will wait another week before they get lifted and planted out in the spring flower beds and tubs.

Harvest glasshouse crops

Greenhouse grapes Flame, my red seedless and Perlette, the white seedless were quite early to ripen and have now all been harvested. They were remarkably sweet and juicy despite the lack of sunshine, though Perlette suffered a fair bit of split skins which allowed botrytis to form.
I am now picking the Black Hamburg which fortunately ripens slowly over a long period so they keep me supplied with grapes right up to December. Although I never thin them they are still quite large, very black, juicy and sweet. Thinning grapes in our Scottish climate can risk infection from botrytis, so I never take that risk, and always allow them ample ventilation to keep the air flowing freely around the bunches.

Take care of house plants

Phalaenopsis orchids are now budding up, so they will get more water and feeding to encourage a strong healthy flower spike. They seem to love the warm moist atmosphere in our bathroom where the sun warms up the room through frosted glazing.
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs can now be potted up for flowering in winter. Plant them in a pot just a wee bit wider than the bulb and leave half the bulb above the compost. They can flower in about ten weeks after potting up so they may be in flower for Christmas. The flower is produced before the leaves which emerge much later.
Christmas cactus, (Zygocactus) will soon be showing some evidence of flower buds, so as soon as they start to show colour, after their long dormant period over summer, commence watering to bring the plants into growth. They often flower from mid November to mid December, and sometimes put on a display twice in the same season.


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