With Gardeners World finished for the year and a long gloomy winter ahead of us, I thought it would help to give people some encouragement to get out in the garden where possible, to benefit from the fresh air and enjoyment that only a garden can provide. So here’s a list of jobs for the weekend.
Jobs for the weekend
Cutting Back Herbaceous Perennials
For some it is one of the best jobs of the year, for others it is the saddest, but it is an important one. Cutting back finished Herbaceous Perennials has many benefits for the garden, but most importantly (for me anyway) it helps to give the garden a tidy feel, if the garden feels tidy it is much less daunting to go and spend a bit of time out there.
Removing the old growth helps reduce the chance of re-infection of diseases next year, many fungal diseases such as Rusts and Black spots will overwinter on old diseased material, ready to strike again in the spring. Likewise, old foliage makes an amazing winter retreat for Slugs and Snails as well as their eggs, it can be like building a pest motel next to an all you can eat buffet!
Many plant stems and old foliage provide a great overwintering place for beneficial insects and wildlife too, so if you’re removing it from the garden beds, it is always a good idea to pile some of it up in a discreet corner of the garden where it may even become a hibernation place for the fabled Hedgehog! Any perennials who's seeds are eaten by wildlife (such as Teasels) should be left until they've shed them all.
Some perennials, like Hosta will die back completely each winter, use secateurs to cut these down to just an inch or so above the soil line, it is often a good idea to mark the location of these kinds of perennials with small bamboo markers as they can disappear completely.
Others, like Helenium will grow a small clump of foliage at the base of this seasons flower stems, using sharp secateurs cut the old stems down low, while not cutting back the foliage crown, as these will be next year’s flower stems.
Lifting and Storing Dahlia.
If you haven’t already, now is a good time to lift Dahlia ready for storage. In most of the UK, Dahlia are not considered fully hardy, in a mild winter they will get through ok with just a mulch on top of them, but in a hard winter they will perish if left outside.
Cut the Dahlia stems down to approximately 6 inches and then carefully lift the tuber by working a fork around the plant about 8 - 10 inches from the stems. Once lifted, use a hose to wash away the soil from around the Dahlia tuber and place the tubers somewhere to dry - this should be somewhere frost free such as a shed or greenhouse. Once they have dried (Usually around a week) they can then be packed in boxes or crates with Vermiculite or straw, I use Rapeseed straw bedding as we have loads of it in stock for the Hens. Put the crates somewhere cold but frost free such as a shed or garage.
It’s autumn, and autumn means leaves, lots of leaves! Until they have all fallen from the trees I very rarely will collect them up, but one part of the garden that should be kept leaf free is the lawn. Even a small layer of leaves on a lawn for a short time can lead to problems such as weakened and stretched grass.
You can use the mower to collect them up, use a higher than normal cut length and don’t do it if the ground is sodden. A lawn rake will do the job very well, but be careful not to rake too vigorously as this will loosen soil and potentially lead to a winter mud bath. Leaf blowers are the bane of some outdoorsy folk, but they are very good for this purpose, you can use them to blow leaves into a pile ready for collection without making the lawn muddy, or blow them into the borders for collection at a later date, even on the wettest of days.
Plant of the Moment!
Ginkgo biloba – Maidenhair tree.
With fossilised Ginkgo leaves dating back 270 million years, the Ginkgo truly is a living fossil. A slow growing, large tree it is unmatched for its pest and disease resistance, it is a relatively compact, beautiful tree suitable for most locations. Its preferred site is a well drained, rich soil in full sun – partial shade.
The reason it is the plant of the moment is the autumn colour. These trees will become bright golden torches in the autumn, which looks spectacular with the autumn sun.
(Image burrowed from www.bowerandbranch.com)