A Harvest Festival for the keen gardener

Autumn has finally announced itself, with dew-covered webs, chilly starts, and the annual leaf watch for golden hues, and it marks the arrival of a special time for gardeners keen to make the most of the still warm-enough soil to prepare for spring.

If you planned a fruit garden last year, either in your own garden or an allotment, you will no doubt be reaping what you’ve sown right about now. Your harvest may be the envy of your neighbours, and friends and family will be thankful for your foresight, but after the collection comes more work. It’s time to consider those hardy annuals and sowing them in time, as well as planting spring bulbs such as daffodils and tulips to take advantage of the still-warm soil.

It’s not long until the trees bless us with their annual fire display of autumn colours, and this will be an idea time to gather the fallen leaves to use as cover for less hardy plants. Leaves contain trace minerals and can feed earthworms and microbes as well as insulate tender plants.

Shredded leaves (go over them a few times with a lawn mower) are more compact, give you a larger surface area and prevent them from bunching together into layers where air cannot penetrate. Leaves are also a good source of brown material for your compost bin, providing future compost for your plants. Fleece can be a wonder material in a garden, and it’s a good idea to begin wrapping your most tender plants to protect them from the worst of winter’s frost.

There are so many jobs one can get on with during autumn, and it can take quite some time! During October, it’s wise to consider…
  • Planning and planting spring bulbs for a showy and sensory display next year
  • Bring tender perennials into the greenhouse or a cool windowsill to protect them over winter
  • For a burst of winter colour, consider planting some evergreens while the soil is still warm enough
  • Hardy perennial seeds collected at this time of year can be planted immediately
  • Remove your summer displays from hanging baskets, and replace with hardier varieties
  • Adding a cloche to any tender plants could give you an extended season
  • Look for overgrown clumps of herbs and divide them ready for next year
  • If you’re fortunate enough to have a greenhouse, give it a good clean to remove pests and diseases and clean all the glazing, before transferring your over wintering plants
  • You may also want to consider insulating the glass (bubble wrap is a good bet) to prevent the colder night temperatures from having an impact on your crops Install a water butt and gutter to your greenhouse

Making plans now for the spring will ensure you have enough of your tender plants remaining to plant out again for colour, reduce your reliance on buying new plants, and give you something wonderful to look forward to when the temperatures and sun rise higher next year.