Sunday, 21 October 2012

SEASONAL JOBS IN AUTUMN



SEASONAL JOBS IN AUTUMN

Yesterday I had a very pleasant hour sat on the patio having my afternoon coffee break in full sun. It was pleasantly very warm. Then just when I thought summer was about to have a late flurry the following day the heavens opened up and we had flooding and a severe weather warning. I think we are now definitely in autumn, therefore my gardening thoughts turn to tidying up the last of the summer flowers and looking ahead to next years fruit, flowers and vegetables.
This is the time to do a final clear up of weeds before we spread compost over beds and borders before the leaves fall and early bulbs start to pop up. Weed control this year has been different. The cool wet weather has discouraged weed growth, so there was not a huge problem provided you watched weather forecasts and were able to weed on those few dry days. However many people just did not get enough dry days to hoe or spray, so the few weeds that did grow became a big problem. We are still getting very wet weather so end of season weeding means removing weeds rather than hoeing or spraying. This will give us clean ground for bulb planting, compost spreading or planting new trees, shrubs, roses or other plants.

Flowers
Summer bedding plants are now finished so these can be removed and chopped up before adding to the compost heap. Remove old potting compost from tubs and baskets add it to the compost heap, though I often reuse this after adding some extra fresh compost and some fertiliser. I purchased some rock dust so I will be adding this as I go. Check all old compost for vine weevil maggots and kill these if spotted. They love fuchsias, begonias and busy lizzies, but don’t seem to bother geraniums much. If you are replanting with spring bedding the vine weevils love polyanthus and primroses, but will also have a go at pansies.
Geraniums can be propagated by taking cuttings from the top three inches or so. I snap these off at a leaf joint and never use a knife which can spread disease. Put about three to five around a shallow pot using free draining compost. I keep mine shaded for a few weeks till they root then bring them onto a sunny windowsill for the winter.
Tuberous begonias can be lifted and dried off in an airy shed after knocking some of the soil off. The tops can be composted. Keep checking the corms for signs of vine weevils which burrow into the tuber to feed. When it is drying off they are easy to spot as the holes are moist. Begonias keep from year to year and get bigger unless you cut them in half in spring from time to time.
Spring bedding
I replant my tubs, baskets, pots and beds with wallflower, pansies, myosotis and polyanthus. Tulips and hyacinths are used in between the plants. I prefer to use the tall Darwin hybrids or fosteriana tulips amongst wallflower, but dwarf early tulips under the others, so they don’t get shaded out with excess foliage. I seldom use triumph, parrot or lily flowered tulips as these are too late for spring bedding mixtures, but are fine on their own in borders.
Now is a perfect time to top up with other spring flowering bulbs such as crocus, snowdrops and daffodils. I have often got good bargains at the end of the bulb planting season when garden centres want to clear the shelves for Christmas gifts, but always make sure the bulbs are still healthy.
Iceland poppies are one of my favourite spring flowers which continue right into summer with bright dazzling flowers. These are now ready for planting from seed sown in late spring.

Vegetables
Spring cabbage April was sown a couple of months ago and are now ready to plant out now as  there is time to get them established before winter sets in. Germination was good in a seed pan, then I transplanted about thirty of the best seedlings into cellular trays. The battle then commenced. First they were spotted by a cabbage white butterfly, so picking off caterpillars was a frequent task. Slugs and snails then found them, followed by some cabbage rootfly maggots. I moved them into my cold greenhouse before the pigeons spotted them, but the warmer conditions were perfect for the local greenflies. I prepared a strip on my allotment a month ago by forking in some well rotted compost. As clubroot is also a problem I dusted the ground with some Perlka, a nitrogenous fertiliser with 50% lime said to be effective as a control for clubroot. Time will tell.
I intended to use the Councils Discovery compost, but got turned away as the weighbridge closes down for lunch and I got chased off the site. They are also closed all weekend.
Does Dundee Council not want to offer the public any compost? It is not easy to buy it.
The plants get collars to keep out rootfly maggots and netted against pigeons.

Plant of the week

 Desfontainia spinosa is a slow growing evergreen shrub ultimately reaching two metres. It is happy on a wide variety of soils and is fine in semi shade. Coming from Chile and Peru it grows in fertile rain forests but with good drainage and enjoys constant wet conditions. It should feel perfectly at home in Scotland. It has holly type leaves but it produces many very attractive single red tubular flowers with golden tips.

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