Good gardening days are rare this month, which is all the more reason for taking full advantage of the few suitable days – there’s always something to see and do in the garden! Although flowers can be scarce, there are still berries, evergreen foliage and bark to add interest on even the dullest of days. You can warm yourself up by tidying the garden and preparing for the winter ahead. Good hygiene in the autumn garden can help prevent disease outbreak the following summer so burn diseased leaves this month. It’s also a good time to check your tools, catch up on greenhouse maintenance and begin planning your spring display.
Many of us who garden in Oxfordshire have heavy clay soil to contend with. Make use of the winter frosts to help break it down. Providing the weather is mild and the ground isn’t too sticky, dig over the soil to get it ready for planting, using a fork to turn it right over, burying any weeds in the process. Don’t bury deep rooted perennial weeds (like dandelions, for example); these should be removed and burnt.
Plant tulips this month
Plant tulip bulbs now as the temperature is cool enough to discourage fungal diseases. Check for blue mould on your bulbs and do not plant them if you discover it. They do require good drainage so you can mix your soil with gravel if your soil is heavy clay.
The end that tapers is the top of the bulb and the flatter end is where the roots emerge – it should be planted this way up. If you are ever in doubt about which way to plant a bulb then plant it sideways and it will find its own way up in the spring. With bulbs, the rule of thumb is to plant with twice as much cover as the height of the bulb so, for example, if your bulb is 3cm, then you want 6cm of earth above it. Allow two bulb widths between bulbs. Go on and plant your bulbs this weekend. Come next spring you will be glad you did!
Rake up fallen leaves
… and pile them up to make leaf mould. If leaves are left in a thick layer on the lawn they will kill off the grass and fallen leaves left lying around plants can encourage the gardener’s public enemy number one – slugs and snails. If you have a large garden with lots of leaves to deal with, make a simple container with four stakes and chicken wire around; stick it in a corner somewhere to contain the leaves and compost down. If you have limited space, rake the leaves into plastic bags (left over compost bags are ideal). Punch holes in the bags and leave in an out of the way space to rot down. In eighteen months or so you will be rewarded with good, friable leaf mould, which makes excellent mulch – for free!