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Gardening Tips

Let’s get planting! Grow-how tips for October


It’s planting time!  Trees, shrubs, roses, wallflowers, garlic…….there’s a myriad of things that you can plant out now.

Do it before the ground starts to freeze or become too waterlogged to attempt it.  It will give them such a headstart next spring when everything starts to move again……….

Wonderful wallflowers

One of my major joys in spring is the scent of wallflowers!  For me, and may be for you too, there isn’t another perfume that so encapsulates that sweet, fresh atmosphere of late springtime.  These beauties are biennial which means they are sown one year and flower the next year. If you had the room, you may have been able to grow some from seed in late spring this year, but otherwise the garden centres have bare-root bunches of all sorts of wallflowers for sale at the moment. Either way, now is the time to plant them out into their final flowering positions.

You MUST treat yourself to the scent of wallflowers next spring……

Wallflowers have a long tap-root and you need to keep the roots moist all the time while you are planting them out, if you possibly can.  They will grow best in sun and good soil. I space mine about a foot apart (30 cm) but dwarf varieties could be a bit closer, I reckon.  Spread the roots out in the hole, fill the soil round them and water them copiously until they have clearly decided they are happy with their new home.

A couple of other things: perennial wallflowers (Erysimum) are fantastically good garden plants with a ridiculously long flowering period – I absolutely adore my ‘Bowles Mauve’! – but they are generally not scented, and can be short-lived.

Perennial wallflowers like ‘Bowles Mauve’ are wonderful garden plants

And the bedding wallflowers I was referring to earlier are actually short-lived perennials themselves; they certainly are in my garden.  Most folk rip them out after they have finished their spring flowering to make way for summer bedding schemes etc. But if you leave them in situ, and don’t mind their rather dull appearance over the summer, they will flower again next year.  At this time of year, I chuck out the tattiest ones, cut back the straggliest ones to green shoots further down their stems, and leave the rest ready to bloom amongst the new wallflowers I’m putting in now. I made a short video while I was doing exactly that – link is at the bottom.

Plant a tree, a shrub, a rose……..

Late autumn/early winter is a FABULOUS time to plant a tree, a shrub or a rose! 

Here are a few handy tips for each of them: 

Tease out the roots of bare-rooted trees and shrubs

1 TREES: Most trees are going dormant now and the air is cooler though the soil still has some warmth in it.  You can actually plant pot-grown trees at any time of the year but planting them between October and April gives them a much better chance of success, as long as the soil isn’t waterlogged or frozen.  Plant bare-root trees only when they’re dormant. 

Soak the roots for an hour or so and then the received wisdom these days is to dig a SQUARE hole for a tree; the thinking is that putting it in a round one increases the risk of the roots just going round and round and never really anchoring themselves to the soil further away. Dig the hole to the depth of the rootball and loosen the soil around the diameter of it.  With most trees, you can untangle the roots a bit before planting, and maybe trim down any very long roots to encourage the plant to make fibrous roots in its new home. But don’t do that if you’re planting a Magnolia or a Eucalyptus, who loathe anyone fiddling about with their roots.

Trim down any really long roots of a bare-rooted plant to encourage it to make new fibrous ones

Plant the tree so that the bit where the trunk widens and the roots start, is at ground-level when you backfill with soil. Firm it in and water it well. It’s really important that your tree doesn’t suffer from lack of water while it is establishing, and this is another very good reason for planting in autumn.

If it needs a stake, drive this in at 45 degrees facing the prevailing wind, and fix the trunk to it with a rubber tie (I find old tights make quite a good substitute, actually!)

2. SHRUBS: Basically the same as trees, but it’s a really good idea to give them a serious cutback as soon as they’re in the ground.  I know it sounds mean, but they will go on to make much stronger healthier plants in the end, if you chop out old, weak or crossing stems straightaway, and prune the remaining stems by half.

3. ROSES: All of the above, but roses are quite greedy plants so rotted manure and bonemeal at the base of the planting hole is a good idea. And try to make sure that the fat graft union above the roots is at soil level once you have backfilled – that way you are less likely to have problems with suckers coming up from the roots.

Plant a new rose so that the fat graft union is at soil level

Gardening shorts

  • A friend of mine who grows smashing veg was absolutely thrilled with the crop he’s got from autumn-sown garlic, and he’s going to do the same every year from now on!  He couldn’t remember whether they were hardneck or softneck etc., I’m just passing the message on that planting garlic in October and November really works.
I shall copy my knowledgeable friend and get some garlic going……………………….
  • I loved visiting Wakehurst a couple of weekends ago– their prairie meadow was still looking beautiful at this late stage of the year full of seedbeds and little splashes of late colour.  Always keen to try new ideas, I rushed back home and ordered the seeds for my own little prairie.  I made a little video about planting them – link is at the bottom.
One of our grandsons couldn’t resist getting in amongst the lovely seedbeds of the prairie meadow

By the way, if you are planning your own meadow area, now is the time to sow yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) which parasitises the grass and weakens it enough for wildflowers to flourish.

  • I have such a love/hate relationship with ivy.  Its creeping stems are distressingly destructive on stone walls, fencing etc. but the flowers and berries are so sought-after by insects, butterflies and birds, at a time of year when there is less around for them.  I won’t be cutting the ivy back until late winter after all the wildlife has had its fill.
We must leave the flowers and then the berries on the ivy to help our declining wildlife

Here is the link to what I’m doing with my wallflowers at the moment.

I made this short video about sowing my ‘prairie’ seeds.

You may be interested to look at our list of favourite trees, shrubs, perennials etc. for September and October. Clicking on a name will take you to the article when we discuss them.

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By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

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