Gardening tips - prepare your garden for cooler weather
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Begin thinking about protecting your plants from frost, says Suzie Hanson, head gardener at Brodsworth Hall
This summer’s weather has been extraordinary so it may seem like a challenge to expect more from plants that have bloomed to almost bursting. Even so, regular watering and deadheading can encourage flowering all the way through September. But here at Brodsworth it is likely our summer bedding will be removed early because the plants have already given everything they can for our really dramatic displays. But empty beds are not always a bad thing. It means they can rest, giving us more time to dig in plenty of our homemade compost and chicken pellets. It’s very important to regularly incorporate organic matter into bedding plant areas. (The plants are very hungry and quickly drain the soil of nutrients.) Do this at the end of September or early October when the soil is still relatively warm and earthworms are active, helping to mix the soil and organic matter together. The soil’s residual warmth also means that September is a good time to plant new perennials in borders so they can get a few roots down before the cold sets in.
Herbaceous borders should still be giving a lovely display, but if they have started to go over start to cut them back and divide, making sure that you water the divisions in well if the weather is dry as they may still be growing.
And did you order your spring bulbs last month? If not, don’t worry, it’s not too late to get to it. The end of this month is the perfect time to plant them. Take care to plant at the right depth as this can affect flowering, some bulbs may not appear at all if planted incorrectly. Tulips should be planted three to four times as deep as the bulb, whereas cyclamen are planted with the top of the corm poking out of the surface of the soil.
With planting in mind and depending on where you live, you may have to start thinking about protecting your more tender plants from the frost. Some plants such as canna and dahlia can be lifted after the first frost and dry-stored over the winter, but others may need more creative measures.
Traditional methods of using straw, bracken or just a good heap of mulch still work well today for small plants and for slightly larger examples, a cloche may also be appropriate. If, like us, you have bigger plants such as tree ferns, things are a little more challenging.
The following technique does work. Wrap the trunk or main stems in a single layer of frost fleece material and then a layer of hessian. The hessian provides some insulation and is perhaps more aesthetically pleasing. Tie it with garden twine. Loosely pack the crown with plenty of straw and then, to stop the wind blowing it all over the garden or the birds stealing it all for their nests in February, use a plastic plant pot with slots cut in for any fronds or branches, to hold it in place.
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And finally, don’t forget to net off any ponds or water cascades before autumn. You should then be able to remove all the leaves in one go rather than having to constantly fish them out with a net. It won’t be long now before you and your rake are called upon by the seemingly endless leaf fall, but with such a warm summer we are promised a gloriously colourful and vibrant fall of leaves.
Jobs for September
Vent glasshouses on hot days
Collect and sow seeds of annuals and perennials
Continue hoeing and weeding as needed
Keep an eye out for powdery mildew during dry spells
Clean out cold frames and greenhouses so that they are ready for autumn
Spray perennials weeds with a glyphosate-based herbicide
Brodsworth hall is a beautiful Victorian house surrounded by a collection of grand gardens in miniature, lovingly restored to their original splendour. For more information contact Brodsworth Hall & Gardens, Brodsworth, Doncaster South Yorkshire DN5 7XJ
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