October Gardening

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October days are often glorious with many deciduous trees and shrubs providing a riot of colour.
Sometimes it may seem pointless raking, when the wind blows even more leaves onto the lawn, but just think of all the lovely leaf mould you can make!

There’s no doubt one of the most powerful images of spring is daffodils billowing gently in March winds. The concept is immediately appealing, and as there are many bulbs that are suitable for naturalising it is, with a little planning, one of the easiest to achieve. To most gardeners naturalising means growing bulbs in grass, rather than in borders. However in the strictest sense it means bulbs growing and seeding as they would in the wild; i.e. “in nature”. When planting bulbs in grass you must remember that the quality of the next year’s display depends upon the current years growth. Leaves must be allowed to die back naturally, or for at least 6 weeks after flowering, no matter how untidy they become. There are 2 main methods: Formal or Informal.

Formal planting: With this method the bulbs are planted to give a bold display over a limited period of time, usually in spring, such as crocus or daffodils around the base of a tree or along a driveway. If formally planting in a lawn ease of mowing around them is of paramount importance. Tight circles may be easy to plant but it is very difficult to manoeuvre a mower around them.

Informal Planting: This approach allows the gardener much greater scope as there is an almost unlimited timescale. However you must remember that the grass has to be cut at some time. The guiding factor is the appearance of the bulbs. Although it is not always possible to use only ‘wild’ bulbs as many have very specific requirements it is possible to choose easier hybrids to give a similar effect but it is best to avoid large, ‘modern’ looking hybrid daffodils. Unless you are fortunate enough to have an orchard, it’s best to define the area to be planted by maintaining a neatly mown border round it and, if it is a large area, a path through it. Then, unlike the formal method, most of the bulbs should be planted randomly over the area to give the illusion that they have seeded. The whole area should be left until all the seed has been dispersed before the grass can be cut.

How to Plant: Remember that these bulbs are to be left undisturbed for many years so the initial planting should be well spaced. Although the display may look a little thin at first it will soon fill out. It will also take a bulb 4-7years to reach flowering size from seed so patience is essential. It may be necessary to ‘top up’ the display with fresh bulbs from time to time. To plant lift a square of turf and then drop a handful of bulbs from waist height into the hole. Plant where they land using a trowel. As a general rule, plant bulbs two to three times their own depth. Press the turf back firmly and plant a few bulbs between each square to maintain the natural appearance.

Suggested varieties for naturalising:
Winter/ Early Spring: Snowdrops, Crocus, Anemone, and aconites
Spring: Daffodils and Narcissi, bluebells, grape hyacinths, fritillaries
Summer: Camassia, Allium

Here are my other Top Tips for October:
• Divide established rhubarb crowns to create new plants.
• Move tender plants (including aquatic ones) into a greenhouse or frost free area.
• Lift Dahlia Tubers (or mulch), Begonia & Gladioli corms to store dry over winter months.
• Wrap glue bands around the trunks of apple trees to trap winter moth
• Prune back tall shrubs such as buddleia to prevent wind rock.
• Be ruthless, and turf out summer bedding plants (even if they are still looking good)

Whatever October brings I hope you’re able to spend some time in your garden.

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