October 29: Plan and order for next year; prune shrubs and roses; bag up fallen leaves
This is the time of year when the scope for getting little jobs done in the garden in the evening is pretty much out of the question as the time change tonight will make the evenings darker earlier. However, it does mean that if you can't work in the garden you should be planning your garden. This is the best time to get seed orders in and plan borders and vegetable crops for next season. I am always surprised how quickly seed companies sell out of certain varieties of seed, particularly the new introductions.
•Now that there has been a frost and the last flowers have gone over on shrub and bush roses it is a good idea to give them a light prune. Long whippy stems can get caught in the autumnal gales and strong winds, which throw plants about, loosening the soil around the rootstock, which encourages rots and fungal problems. The best way to stop this happening is to shorten the long shoots by half to two-thirds of their length. A top dressing or mulch of compost, wellrotted manure or bark will help too.
•The tops of my dahlias have been blown over now, so I will lift them a little early this year as they look in quite poor shape. Brush off most of the soil from the roots (don't wash them) and set them upside down in cardboard boxes or trays to dry out in a shed, garage or cool greenhouse. After a week or so brush off more of the soil as it dries, and store them in a cool dark frost-free place.
•Cut back the stems of chrysanthemums as soon as the flowers have gone over. Lightly fork around the base of the plants and apply well-rotted compost to insulate the roots from the cold. The mulch will be taken down into the soil by the action of worms and will help to retain moisture and feed the plants next year.
•Houseplants can suffer on windowsills at night where they are in draughts and cold radiating from the glass, especially if the curtains are closed at night. The temperature can fall dramatically on cold nights.
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•Bag up fallen leaves collected from areas of paving and rake them up from the grass. These can be added gradually to the compost heap through out the winter in 10cm layers every two weeks where they will quickly rot. During the autumn at Easton College we use a rotary mower to top the grass and collect the leaves.
•Fresh mint to go with the spuds at Christmas and beyond... If you have some in your garden or in a large pot you'll have plenty for digging out and transferring to smaller pots, but ensure you leave some outside for next year. Use a spade to lift clumps, or knock out plants from pots, and tease apart the roots in the same way as you would divide herbaceous perennials. Select two or three stems with roots attached, and repot them into 7.5cm pots of soil-based John Innes No3. Try to pot up several pots. Water well and stand in a sheltered sunny spot in the garden, or in the greenhouse or in a cold frame for the roots to establish for a couple of weeks. Then bring a pot or two indoors and put on a well-lit windowsill to encourage fresh new growth. Bring in more pots after a few weeks so that you have more shoots coming on all the time.
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