October 22: Close greenhouse vents; check fences and trellis; keep watering; pot some plants for indoors
A touch of frost this week has been a reminder that winter is just around the corner, and more significant frosts can be expected in the next few weeks. The ever-decreasing light means that most plants will slow or stop growing. So in the greenhouse start to ease back on the watering and only water in the mornings. Remove any leaves that have faded on plants that will be staying in the greenhouse. At this time of year temperatures can fluctuate greatly so it is worth closing the vents in the middle of the afternoon to trap in heat. Replace any broken panes of glass and seal gaps in the structure. Check that the heater is working correctly and that the thermostat is cutting in at the appropriate temperature.
•For a little extra protection this winter use the leaves of Gunnera. Its huge leaves are hard to resist, even in a small garden. The leaves can become as large as 2.4metres across. These large leaves are very useful to not only protect the crown of the plant but they can also be used to protect other plants that are slightly tender. Gunnera itself is relatively hardy but if the buds get wet and frosted, the undeveloped leaves can become damaged. Just cut the leaves off and invert them two or three per bud. Use some stones to hold them in place.
•If you have fences, trellises, arches or pergolas, go round making sure they are all secure, tighten any loose screws or hammer in a few more nails. Firmly tie in climbing plants, such as roses, evergreen honeysuckles and other plants, which need support. Don't forget to replace any worn-out twine. Tying-in now will not only protect the plants from wind damage, but it will help protect the plants around them too.
•When planting anything at this time of year, it is still important to water it in so that moisture is flooded around the roots and soaks into the root ball. It's also vital to water pot-grown plants before knocking them out of the pot for planting, to minimise root damage.
•Pot up some prepared hyacinth bulbs and paperwhite narcissi to force indoors as houseplants. Hyacinths can be potted singly in 7.5cm pots, but they look best when grown in a group of three in a larger container. You can use bulb fibre but multi-purpose compost will do just as well and make sure you keep them moist. Put the pots on a cool windowsill to encourage the bulbs – they will become tall and drawn if they are kept too warm.
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•Have you ever made the mistake of digging up a bulb or perennial when they have died down for the winter? If so nip out now and mark the spots or draw up a plan of the garden showing locations for bulbs especially.
•Now is the time to propagate many of the more common shrubs and some trees from hardwood cuttings. Take pieces of stem 20-30cm long and at least as thick as a pencil. Remove the leaves. Make sure you put them in the ground the right way up– cut the tops at an angle and the bottoms flat. Some plants like Cornus, willow, and privet can go direct into the ground in a sheltered spot, for others it is best to put them in a deep pot in a cool greenhouse until spring, then move them outside.
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