Oak Leaf Gardening Monthly Cuttings

Newsletter 53 - October 2015

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.
  • Take semi-ripe cuttings to propagate evergreen shrubs.
  • 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 (including hedging) 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 months.
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.
  • Empty out hose pipes and other watering systems so they don’t freeze and split over the winter. Cover taps with bubble-wrap or fleece.
  • 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.
  • 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.
Plant of the monthMahonia aquifolium 'Apollo'

Mahonia aquifolium 'Apollo' is a great choice for year round interest. In spring the spiky leaves are dark green and it displays clusters of bright yellow flowers. Black berries appear over the summer and autumn. The evergreen leaves then become deep purple/red into winter. It grows to around 1m tall and 1.5m spread. It's a vigorous plant which requires little maintenance, although you may want to prune it annually to restrict its spread. Find out more...

Problem of the monthThe exit hole of a nut weevil larvae

Nut weevils are beetle-like creatures which lay their eggs in the nuts of oaks, hazels, chestnuts, pecans and hickories. The larvae hatch within the nuts, consume the kernel then burrow out through small round holes to overwinter in the soil. It rarely causes severe damage in domestic gardens, but can be a more important pest in commercial situations. Find out more...

In the news

It's all apples and pears!

As well as numerous apple and pear related events happening around the country, this year's harvest season welcomes some fruity news. A new pear variety has been launched at the East Malling Research Centre in Kent. 'Joy of Kent' was so named following a reader competition in Gardener's World. Elsewhere in Kent, a 'Book of Pears' has been produced by Dr Joan Morgan, working at the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale. It tracks the story of pears and also contains a directory of pear varieties.

In Scotland, local gardeners and orchard owners have been asked to donate any excess pears and apples to Gordon Castle in Fochabers, to be used in its cider. A bottle of cider will be exchanged for every 7kg of fruit donated.

Unique vertical rain garden installed in London

London's Tooley Street is now home to the first vertical garden which uses no power and is sustained solely by rainwater. The installation, which is three times the size of the original 2013 garden, uses a system designed and installed by Treebox. The wall harvests rainwater, being able to store up to a 6 week supply, which is then fed to the plants by capillary action.

Purple carrots on sale in Waitrose

Waitrose are now stocking purple Chantenay carrots in some of its stores. The colourful vegetables contain all the vitamin A and beta-carotene of their orange relatives, but also provide the antioxidant anthocyanin. Purple is the original colour of carrots, the orange ones we're familiar with were developed by Dutch breeders as a tribute to William of Orange.


Greenhouse maintenance

It’s important to look after your greenhouse. Not only will it extend the lifespan of the structure itself, good hygiene will help to minimise the risk of pests and diseases. Autumn is an ideal time to carry out most maintenance tasks as greenhouses are relatively empty at this time of year and it’s still warm enough outside to temporarily evict any resident plants. It’s also a good time to remove any painted shading you’ve used to keep it cooler over the summer.

The first thing to do is to remove everything from the greenhouse, including all the plants, staging and equipment. Sweep up any debris and remove weeds.

Then you can clean the framework and glazing, inside and out, using disinfectant on the inside. Keeping the glazing clean will maximise light transmission as well as removing any nasty spores or eggs lurking on the structure. A plastic plant label is handy for scraping out the grime in and around joints to get a really thorough clean. Make sure you wear gloves and goggles (having disinfectant drip into your eye from a greenhouse roof isn’t much fun!).

All the staging should be scrubbed down with disinfectant then put back into the greenhouse before you fumigate it (as it will also benefit from the fumigation).

Once you’ve finished with the disinfectant you can fumigate the greenhouse (eg with a sulphur candle) to get rid of any remaining pest and spores. Make sure that no plants, people or animals are in the greenhouse while the fumigation is happening (unless the fumigant is specifically designed to be safe for plants or people).

Painted wooden or steel frames will require re-painting every few years, so take the opportunity to get this job done if necessary. Check the gutters and downpipes to make sure that they aren’t blocked or cracked and oil doors and vents to keep them working smoothly. Repair or replace any cracked panes, badly fitting doors or broken vents.

Check that all your equipment is working, particularly any heaters which you will need over the forthcoming winter season. Watering systems should ideally be rinsed through with disinfectant to ensure that any lurking germs are dealt with.

Disinfect any other equipment (eg pots, capillary matting, gravel and tools) and check plants for signs of pests or diseases before returning them to the greenhouse.

More information on growing under glass.


What's on this month

As the autumn sets in make the most of sunny days by visiting these garden events:

  • 1st & 8th October - Free Garden Tour, Uppark House and Garden, Petersfield, West Sussex.
  • 3rd & 4th October - Apple Weekend, Trelissick (NT), Feock, near Truro, Cornwall.
  • 3rd & 4th October - Top Fruit In the Spotlight, RHS Garden Rosemoor, Torrington, Devon.
  • 4th October - Autumn Bonsai Show, Capel Manor Gardens, Enfield, Middlesex.
  • 4th October - Autumn Flower Festival, The Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Edgbaston, Birmingham.
  • 10th & 11th October - Woodfest, RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Chelmsford, Essex.
  • 10th & 11th October - Fungus Fun, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edinburgh.
  • 11th October - Culzean Apple Day, Culzean Castle & Country Park, Maybole, Ayrshire & Arran.
  • 11th October - Wales Fungus Day, National Botanic Garden of Wales, Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire.
  • 15th October - Introduction to Gardening: Champion Trees, Nymans (NT), Near Haywards Heath, West Sussex.
  • 16th October - Garden Tour, Monk's House (NT), Lewes, East Sussex.
  • 17th & 18th October - Birds In The Garden With The RSPB, RHS Garden Rosemoor, Torrington, Devon.
  • 21st October - Glorious Gardens Tour, Antony (NT), Torpoint, Cornwall.
  • 23rd & 24th October - RHS London Shades of Autumn Show, Royal Horticultural Halls, London.
  • 24th October - Wild About Gardens Day, University of Leicester Botanic Garden, Leicester.