Late autumn and the leaves are turning colour and falling fast now. Winter’s on its way, but that’s no reason to hang up your trowel and gardening coat till spring – No, no, no, there’s work to be done! Let’s plant tulips, clean up the paths and mulch the beds for starters…
It’s time to plant your tulips! These bulbs always go in later than the daffs etc. because tulips planted in early autumn are much more susceptible to a nasty little fungal disease called Tulip Fire, when they get covered with brown spots and have withered and distorted leaves.
Here’s how to do it:
- Make sure each bulb is firm and plump with no signs of mould and mushiness.
2. Fill a pot to half-way with gritty compost and mix in some fertiliser granules if you have some. If planting into garden soil, dig your chosen area to at least 3 times the depth of your tulip bulbs, and line the hole with grit.
3. Place your bulbs in – they really don’t mind being close together. If you are planting a mixture for a multi-colour effect, check that they flower at roughly the same time in spring.
4. If you often have a problem with mice or squirrels digging up your bulbs, consider sprinkling chilli pepper, coffee grounds, garlic powder or black pepper around them to deter the varmints a tad. You may need to re-apply it regularly though – heavy rain washes it away and boy! We have certainly had a lot of that!
5. Cover your bulbs with a good depth of compost – they grow better if they are quite deep, so 2-3 times the depth of the bulb is the accepted rule of thumb.
6. Water the compost and add some physical protection from the squirrels if you can – a chicken wire frame, an upturned wire hanging basket, etc.
7. Wait for a fabulous show of colour in spring! 😊🌷
If you want to see all of that rather than read it, I’ve made a short video of the process – click on the link at the bottom.
Let’s clean up
Ooooh, this is a messy time of year, isn’t it. Sodden leaves are everywhere making paths slippery, filling gutters and smothering grass. Try to get out there every few days and have a clean-up before the situation causes big problems.
Have a long critical look at paved and patio-areas as well as any decking. Brush and scrub away any dirt and grime that has built up during the year – a pressure-hose is a useful tool here, and I find it handy to have a little trowel with me for scraping up patches of moss on the paths in shady areas which can become horribly slippery and dangerous when wet. Make any repairs to the joints between slabs that you need to and tidy up any manky corners.
Bring garden furniture under cover if you can or cover it outside, and put a net over the garden pond to catch the worst of the falling leaves – too much rotting foliage in the pond would foul the water.
Rake up fallen leaves on lawns because they can smother or even kill the grass if they build up; use them to make leaf-mould.
If you have an outdoor tap, wrap some fleece around it, or put a custom-made foam cover on it, to prevent it from freezing.
Put gloves on and clean out the gutters of greenhouses, especially where the downpipe goes into a water butt. Use a hose to flush the pipe through, and pull out any debris that makes it through to the butt. Clean the glass if you have crops growing in there over winter.
Oh dear, these are all very dull jobs, aren’t they, but think how marvellously pleased with yourself you’ll feel when you’ve done them!
- Have you got tender things or winter crops growing in the greenhouse during the cold months? Do watch out because fungal diseases can have a field day in cool moist conditions. Have a regular little check round and pick off any leaves or stems that are going mouldy – the problem can spread alarmingly quickly to healthy plants if you are not vigilant.
- I’ve just done my autumn mulch and am feeling very smug about it. I weeded and gave the borders a gentle tidy-up first, leaving seedheads for the birds, but cutting back most of the sloppy, floppy stuff (I’m sure you know what I mean!) Then I spread a layer of at least 3” (7 cm) of mulch over the top of the soil. My weapon of choice was mushroom compost, but there are lots of other choices – well-rotted manure, garden compost, leaf mould, processed conifer bark or needles (great for gardens with acid soil), composted seaweed………The beds looked much more glamorous when I’d finished, and the mulch will conserve moisture, suppress the pesky weeds and add goodies to the soil which might otherwise be leached out in winter rains. WIN, WIN!
- Did you pot up some bulbs and put them in a cool dark place indoors to force them to flower especially early? If you did, do check them because once the shoots are about an inch long (2.5 cm), the pots should be brought into the light (a coolish light windowsill is ideal). This will prevent the shoots becoming all leggy and weak before the flower buds form.
- Most importantly, start making your Christmas list – gardening gloves perhaps, because you’ve worn out the fingers on yours? I adore the ones we have in our shop (that’s why we chose them!). Or a razor hoe – just the best friend a gardener could have!
Here is the video I made about how to plant tulip bulbs.
We were delighted to be included in a review of 10 great gardening books by horticulture.co.uk – the prestigious online magazine about the horticultural world, with both the books we’ve published receiving some fab praise. Read what they said here, and then add them to your festive gift list. You can buy them here!
Do you remember Laura talking about Viburnum opulus last week in our discussion about berries? Louise introduces us to a very beautiful variety of it. Hope you’ll forgive the festive robin – not too early, is it?
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