Flowers still bloom and gardens still look pretty, but there is a definite change appearing in the garden. This is the time of autumn glory, of Chrysanthemums and Michaelmas daisies and leaves that are slowly beginning to be edged in yellows and reds.
Weeding is still necessary as is the need to mow lawns – albeit at a much reduced pace now that the growing season is slowing down. Keep deadheading annual flowers since annuals will continue blooming for some weeks yet. Likewise feed and deadhead hanging baskets and containers as the plants will usually keep going until the first frosts.
Thinking about adding some new trees and shrubs to the garden? This is a perfect time for planting as the soil is still warm and they will settle in quickly, ready for vigorous growth in next spring.
Shading can be removed from greenhouses now. If you have tender plants within the greenhouse, take care to close windows at night as temperatures begin fall.
Harvesting is still in full swing this month. Apples and pears will be ready for picking – gently twist and see if they come away in your hand. Take care with fruit that has dropped onto the ground as wasps may be feeding on it, desperate for food to see them through the colder days.
Sweetcorn will be ready for harvesting. Take a look at the cobs and if the tassels have turned brown, gently pinch a kernel on the cob. If a milky sap is released then pick the cob and head for the kitchen. Cook as quickly as possible to ensure that it maintains maximum sweetness and less starch.
Begin to get pumpkins and squashes ready for Halloween by removing any leaves that shadow the fruits. Raise the fruit off the ground by placing something like wood, plastic, cardboard underneath. This will encourage the fruit to ripen.
As summer begins to fade into autumn, the days are steadily becoming noticeably shorter. Despite this, gardens are still ablaze with colour as dahlias, sedum, Michaelmas daisies and chrysanthemums begin to bloom. Bright berries appear on pyracantha, hawthorn and many roses develop beautiful hips.
It is time to begin carefully pruning shrubs and perennials that are unlikely to flower again this year. As the weather cools, herbaceous perennials can be divided, but make sure they are well watered when being replanted.
Hoe around plants and vegetables to break up any dry soil that has developed during those last hot days of August. This will ensure that the autumn rain will quickly dissipate into the soil and reach plant roots. Any camellias or rhododenron plants should be carefully watered this month and kept moist as this will ensure that the buds required for next year’s flowering develop successfully.
Dead head roses, penstemons and bedding plants like marigolds and lobelia to prolong the flowering period. Feed and deadhead all hanging baskets and container plants as this will encourage them to keep going until the first frosts.
In the vegetable garden, there will be a lot of harvesting to be done as root crops such as carrots, potatoes, parsnips begin to mature. Outdoor tomato plants will be coming to the end of their cropping period. All fruit should be picked and the plants placed in the compost. In the greenhouse, remove any shading as plants will require all the warmth and light they can get from the available sunshine in order to ripen the remaining fruit. Pinch out cordon tomato plants to concentrate their attention on ripening fruit rather than producing new ones.
Check sweetcorn cobs regularly. They are best picked as quickly as possible when ripe. Gently pinch a kernal. If it is ready, then it will release a milky sap. Pick and use immediately if at all possible – this will ensure maximum sweetness. Sweetcorn cobs turn starchy the longer they are left.
Beans and peas will stop fruiting this month. As soon as it is clear that cropping is coming to an end, remove any remaining crops then cut down the plants to ground level. Leave the roots in the soil for a few weeks to release the much needed nitrogen into the ground ready for next year.
With autumn now on its way, this is the perfect time to refresh and tidy up the garden. Although night time temperatures are beginning to get much cooler, daytime temperatures can still be quite high, so many plants may need watering regularly. Feed and dead head hanging baskets and annuals, as this will bring on another flush of flowers until the first frosts begin.
Mowing the lawn remains a necessity. Grass will continue to grow steadily over the next few weeks and it can quickly begin to look untidy if left untouched. Use a strimmer to prevent grass growing over the edge of flowerbeds and borders. If you have any areas of long grass, take care to make sure that there are no hedgehogs taking shelter in the grass before strimming.
Gaps in borders can be filled with autumn flowering plants such as sedum and chrysanthemum. These will add valuable colour as well as providing food for bees. Many of these plants will continue flowering until quite late in the autumn as long as they are deadheaded regularly.
Blackberries and the first apples are now coming into season within the vegetable garden. Check daily for ripeness and pick frequently for the best crops. Apples should be lifted gently with one hand and twisted slightly. If they come away easily from the tree, they are ready for harvesting. Take care to pick up any fruit that has fallen to the ground as this can encourage wasps to gather. Wasp stings can be unpleasant and even dangerous for some people, so it is wise to avoid the risk of problems. Any fruit that has begun to rot can be placed in the compost bin.
Pinch out the tops of tomato plants. This will encourage the plant to concentrate on ripening existing fruits. Place pumpkins and squashes on a piece of wood or plastic to keep them clean and dry away from the wet soil. This will reduce the risk of any rot developing. Remove any leaves that are shadowing the fruits. Gently pinch a kernel on sweetcorn plants – if it a milky liquid appears, pick the fruit immediately. Cook as quickly as possible. This will ensure that the full taste and sweetness of the sweetcorn can be enjoyed. Lastly, harvest any remaining onions in the vegetable patch letting them dry off for a short while in the sunlight.