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Oak Leaf Gardening Monthly Cuttings
Newsletter 17 - October 2012
What to do now

Ornamental plants

  • Cut herbaceous perennials which have finished flowering down to ground level. Compost the cuttings (unless they are diseased).
  • Hardy perennials such as bergenias, pinks/carnations, geraniums and violas can be divided this month.
  • This is the start of the season for taking hardwood cuttings, from plants such as dogwoods, roses, buddlejas and philadelphus.
  • If you live in a cold area, dig up cannas, gladioli and dahlias when they have finished flowering, for dry storage overwinter.
  • If you want to save tender perennial plants for next year, now's the time to pot them up and move them to a frost-free location.
  • Start planting spring bulbs in borders and containers. Hyacinths, daffodils, crocuses, fritillaries and tulips can be planted this month.
  • Swap over your summer bedding for autumn colour, such as violas, pansies, polyanthus, ornamental cabbages, wallflowers and primulas.
  • Small evergreen shrubs, conifers and trees can be planted or moved over the autumn.
  • Climbing and rambling roses can be pruned towards the end of October or next month.
Fruit and veg
  • In October you can still sow/plant crops outdoors including broad beans, autumn onion sets, hardy peas and spring cabbages.
  • Garlic can be planted this or next month.
  • In the greenhouse border you can sow lettuces (which could also be grown in pots), baby spinach leaves, spring onions, early carrots and mange-tout.
  • Save seeds to sow next year. Good seeds to collect include tomatoes, beans, peas, squashes, lettuces, sweetcorn, onions, beetroots and peppers.
  • This month you can harvest apples, pears, marrows, sprouts, leeks, autumn cauliflowers, maincrop potatoes, carrots, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, pumpkins and squashes.
  • Tender herbs should be protected or potted up and brought indoors this month.
  • Protect tender late crops, such as salads, with cloches or horticultural fleece.
  • If you're in a cold area, bring unripe greenhouse tomatoes indoors to finish ripening.
  • Prune out fruited canes of blackberries, loganberries and hybrid berries.
  • Apply grease bands to protect apples, cherries, plums and pears from winter moths.
General tasks
  • Collect up, clean and store herbaceous perennial supports which are no longer needed.
  • Reduce the amount of water given to container grown plants, both indoors and outside.
  • Check whether your containers are frost proof and bring any which aren't indoors.
  • Give your lawn some TLC; scarifying, aerating, top dressing and feeding it this month.
  • Raise the cutting height on your lawn mower to gradually increase the length of the grass.
  • This month is a good time to lay turf – before it gets too cold and when nature should keep it well watered for you.
  • Cover water features and ponds with netting to stop leaves blowing into them.
  • Mulch your beds and borders while the ground temperature is still fairly warm.
Aster ericoides f. prostratus 'Snow Flurry'Plant of the month

You might be surprised to learn that these vibrant autumnal leaves belong to a plant which is better known for its scented winter flowers - a witch hazel. More specifically Hamamelis x intermedia 'Hiltingbury'. This deciduous shrub will grow to about 3.5m height and spread, and is fairly low maintenance. Find out more...

Problem of the monthNectria cinnabarina - Coral spot

Rabbits may be cute, but they will graze on young shoots and leaves, and sometimes strip bark from, a wide range of plants. The damage will go up to a height of about 50cm. This can be particularly noticeable in severe winters when they will also feed on flowers, fruit and seeds. Fencing, chemical repellents and planting less rabbit-attracting plants should help reduce the damage. Find out more...

In the news

Ash dieback disease spreading

An increasing number of incidences of the ash chalara fungus, which causes ash dieback disease, have been found in nurseries in the UK. While chemically controllable in these restricted areas, it would be unlikely that pesticides could control a spread into natural woodlands. The Forestry Commission and FERA are taking emergency measures to control the spread.

Horatio's garden opens

Horatio's garden, designed by Cleve West for patients at The Duke Of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre in Salisbury, opened last week. The garden commemorates Horatio Chapple, a teenager killed by polar bears while on an expedition in Norway last August, who volunteered at the centre during his school holidays.

Plants send out SOS when pests lay eggs!

Researchers at Wageningen University and the Netherlands Institute of Ecology have found that plants can detect when common pests lay eggs on them and also send out chemical signals to deter other pests and encourage predators. Specifically they discovered that black mustard plants can detect the eggs of the large cabbage white butterfly and then send out a chemical signal to attract parasitic wasps to feed on the eggs and caterpillars.

Renovation at Liverpool Festival site

The site of the International Garden Festival next to the River Mersey in Liverpool has reopened, almost 30 years after it was originally created. This follows a £5.4m restoration project by property investment company Langtree. The site is now managed by the Land Trust charity.

RHS look out for mint beetle

The RHS is calling on gardeners to watch out for the blue mint beetle, Chrysolina coerulans, which was first spotted in the UK last year. The 7mm long beetle is dark blue in colour and its larvae are black, both eating the foliage of mint plants. In order to understand whether this is an isolated sighting or a more serious invasion the RHS would like photos or live samples sent to them.


Treat your lawn this autumn

Grass heart

The autumn is a great time to give your lawn a bit of TLC. We seem to forget that a lawn isn't one big plant, it's thousands of individual plants. Consider the amount of time and attention you give your turf. Now imagine how much time and attention you'd give to a border full of thousands of plants. Are you starting to feel some sympathy for the lowly lawn?

Autumn is the perfect time to redress the balance. The summer is over and your lawn has been trampled on, parched by dry spells, drowned in wet weather, hacked about with a lawnmower and not even given a bite to eat! So this is a great opportunity to give it some TLC to build it up ready for next summer's abuse.

These are our top 5 autumn treats for your lawn:

  1. Remove any fallen leaves from your lawn straight away. Leaves stop light and water reaching the lawn and can encourage lawn diseases.
  2. Keep on mowing your lawn once a week, but make the cutting height slightly higher so the grass grows a bit longer.
  3. Lawns build up a layer of 'thatch' at the base of the grass. Raking over your lawn with a spring tined rake can pull thatch up to the surface, or alternatively a motorised scarifier (which looks like a small lawn mower) can be used. Remove the raised thatch. This is best done in September, but it's not too late to do it now.
  4. Your lawn needs feeding in autumn as much as it does in spring, but it needs a different type of food. In the autumn we need to build up the root system and overall strength of the grass plants. So a balanced fertiliser is used - you can usually find proprietary brands of autumn lawn feed in garden centres.
  5. If you have bare patches in your lawn then autumn is the perfect opportunity to overseed them, as the new grass plants will have plenty of time to get established before heavy use in the summer. Small packs of grass seed are available, simply scatter the seed according to the density recommended on the pack and then lightly rake them in.

Read more about autumnal lawn care, including other tasks which will benefit your lawn, in our blog.

Image courtesy of Master Isolated Images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


What's on this month

Nothing beats visiting a garden on a crisp, sunny autumn day. Here are some suggestions:

  • 3rd & 11th October - Volunteering Open Day, Dyffryn Gardens & Arboretum, St Nicholas, Vale of Glamorgan.
  • 6th to 14th October - Flower Festival, Burghley House, Stamford, Lincolnshire.
  • 7th October - Apple Day, Tatton Park, Knutsford, Cheshire.
  • 7th, 14th, 21st & 28th October - Open Day, Hole Park Gardens, Rolvenden, Kent.
  • 9th & 10th October - RHS London Harvest Festival Show, RHS Horticultural Halls, Westminster, London.
  • 12th October - NGS Open Day, Sudeley Gardens, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.
  • 14th October - Autumn Tree Walk, Syon Park, Brentford, Middlesex.
  • 20 & 21st October - RHS New Forest Breakfast Walk, Exbury Gardens, Southampton, Hampshire.
  • 21st October - Apple Event, Culzean Castle, Maybole, Ayrshire and Arran.
  • 21st October - Apple Day, Forty Hall Farm, Enfield, London.
  • 23rd October - Perennials Throughout The Year Talk, Sheffield Botanical Gardens, Sheffield.
  • 23rd & 24th October - RHS London Shades of Autumn Show, RHS Horticultural Halls, Westminster, London.
  • 27th & 28th October - Autumn Colours Weekend, Sherborne Castle, Sherborne, Dorset.