It is mid-September, as I’m writing and our garden furniture is outside, but I am not sure how much more use it will get. As October and November progress, the chill sets in, with wind and rain increasing. It is time to bring in tender plants and protect pots with bubble wrap or hessian, raising them off the ground to avoid waterlogging. Last year we lost some agapanthus, dahlias and calla lilies, as well as hebe plants so I will be more careful this year. Mulching can help protect the bulbs and tubers.
Do you put your garden to bed? There are pros and cons: some plants look good when frosted, other provide benefit for wildlife, with seed heads or berries, or cover that provides shelter. Perhaps we can just remove those plants not contributing much to the winter garden. Mulching in later winter/early spring is easier when we can see where the returning perennials are.
I must prune the roses to protect them from wind rock, especially after the last winter storms. We need to mow one last time, especially the area left long over summer. We enjoyed the many grasshoppers, butterflies and dragonflies in our garden this year, as well as the bees buzzing in the lavender bushes, but there was a dearth of ladybirds and consequently lots of aphids, which I squished. Some grass areas also need reseeding.
The apples this year were not good, too many worms, and we will try using pheromone traps as well as grease bands this time. I have tolerated some insect damage this year, after learning of their 60% decline in the last twenty years and am trying to improve the planting to support more insects. A third of our crops are pollinated by insects and much of our wildlife, be it birds, reptiles, bats, amphibians, small mammals or fish, rely on insects for food. Now we need to become insect champions, halting the use of unnecessary pesticides. The Wildlife Trust has a useful guide to chemical-free organic gardening. I do not want to tolerate the damage done by the box tree moth caterpillars, which attacked the box hedge bushes and partly defoliated them. Box tree moth caterpillars can be picked off by hand, or pheromone traps can be used and nematode biological control has some effect on caterpillars, but will be needed every year. The RHS suggests some alternatives, if like me, you are keen on this.
I have cuttings from teucrium fruticans, a shrub with grey-green leaves and pale blue flowers in summer, which I will plant once I have removed the box shrubs, then decide on a more permanent planting. Birds and wildlife need more support and water and food. There are winter bedding plants and bulbs to plant, waiting until November with tulips. I look forward to enjoying some crisp autumn gardening days and a good spring display.
This article is reproduced from the St Mary’s church, Godmanchester parish magazine with kind permission of the gardener, Josephine Becker