Gardening Calendar: Jobs for Late Autumn

Use the last few mild days to plant shrubs and perennials and clear up the garden before winter sets in.

Late autumn is usually one of the wettest seasons, with shorter days and weaker sun bringing lower temperatures, though there may be a few warm, sunny days.

In the west of Britain, rainfall may increase, and gales are often more frequent than in mid autumn. Fog and mist are common, particularly in built-up areas of the Midlands and in south-east England, and especially after a drier spell of cold easterly winds. If no fog forms, hard frost can occur. Snow settles on northern hills, but on lower ground it usually melts quickly.

Take full advantage of the few days suitable for outdoor work in late autumn. Continue clearing up the ground, making sure that diseased leaves are burnt — good garden hygiene now can prevent disease the following summer.

Lawn Maintenance

On established lawns, continue drainage work started in mid autumn, and aeration treatment started in early autumn. Apply an autumn fertilizer if this has not been done already.

Cut the grass for the last time before winter, and have the lawnmower overhauled.

Continue treatment against earthworms and water with HCH to control leatherjackets.

Prepare sites for new lawns to be sown next spring.

Garden borders

hypericumFinish digging new beds and borders for winter weathering, and continue to tidy existing borders and cut down tall herbaceous plants. Cut plant tops into 15-30cm (6-12in) lengths for composting: use fallen leaves for leaf-mould or to protect the crowns of tender plants against frost.

Take precautions against slugs and snails in established borders, and pack away supporting canes in a dry place.

In the middle of late autumn, begin winter digging between plants on heavy soil. Do this when the weather is fine and the soil is not sticky. Winter frost will break up the soil, improving its texture in time for spring.

Use a flat-tined potato fork and insert it at an angle so that its wide tines turn over a neat wedge of surface soil, burying any annual weeds such as meadow grass, dead nettle and chickweed. Deep-rooted perennial weeds should be dug up completely and burnt.

New herbaceous perennials which have been delivered late, and hardy perennials raised from seed, can still be planted out in their permanent positions during fine weather as long as the soil does not form a hard compacted surface when trodden on. If the weather is too cold for planting or the soil is unsuitable, delay planting out until early spring.

If chrysanthemums over-wintering outdoors show signs of waterlogging, improve drainage by piercing the soil round the roots deeply with a garden fork. Keep the beds clear of fallen leaves and weeds, which can conceal pests such as eelworms.


Finish planting tulips and hyacinths as soon as possible Examine dahlia tubers in storage. If they are shrivelling, plunge them in a bucket of tepid water and leave overnight before removing and drying carefully. Using a sharp knife, cut off any parts that show signs of rotting and dust the cuts with sulphur. Replace the tubers in vermiculite or slightly damp compost.

After gladioli corms have dried off, they can be cleaned at any time until just before planting out in spring. Remove the bulblets from around the base of the new corms and store them separately in paper bags if they are to be used for propagation. Break away and discard the old shrivelled corms and remove the tough outer skins from the new corms. If they are infested with thrips or they were attacked by thrips during the growing season, dust with malathion or HCH.


Dig the beds to be used next year for hardy and half-hardy annuals, incorporating a dressing of well-rotted manure or compost. Leave the land rough — winter weathering will break the soil down, leaving a fine tilth suitable for seed sowing. Autumn digging is particularly helpful where the soil is heavy with clay but it is important to complete this task before winter rain and snow make the soil too sticky to work on.

Send for seed catalogues to allow plenty of time to plan next year’s bedding programme.

Rock garden plants

Finish trimming and dead-heading alpine and rock garden plants, saving any seeds wanted for propagation.

Clear away fallen leaves and mound beech or oak leaves over tender plants to protect them during the winter. Place sticks over the mounds to prevent the leaves blowing away.

Plant out shrubs, heathers and pot-grown alpines.

On clean, level ground between the plants, spread a 12mm-2.5cm (½-1in) deep layer of small shingle or stone chippings. This will supress most weed seedlings, making hoeing unnecessary.

Elsewhere, fork over the surface between plants, preferably using a small hand fork with flat tines. Carefully remove the roots of all perennial weeds.

Water gardens

Finish drastically thinning out underwater oxygenating plants and continue to remove dead leaves from the water. Leave the foliage on marginal plants such as reeds and rushes to provide some protection during severe weather.

If the pool is sited where leaves and plant debris are likely to fall or blow into the water, stretch small-gauge wire netting on to a frame and place over the pool. The netting catches the leaves and is easy to remove.

Overhaul pumps used for waterfalls and fountains and store in a dry place. Remove submerged pumps from the water and clean and dry the working parts. With surface pumps, disconnect the suction line and run it for a few seconds only to empty the pump chamber. If possible, disconnect the pump from its fittings, clean and dry the metal parts and smear with grease.

Stop feeding the fish when the days become colder.

Shrubs and trees

hydrangea 2In mild weather, continue to plant deciduous trees and shrubs as well as heathers. Examine heathers planted during mid autumn and remove any weeds. Gently firm into place any plants which have been lifted and loosened by frost.

More tender trees and shrubs may need protection in severe weather — these include campsis, caryopteris, cistus, garrya, hydrangea, hypericum and spartium. For a windbreak, use a screen of wire netting which has old sacking woven or packed into it. Alternatively, place three or four stakes around the plant and wrap stout polythene round them, tying securely. To prevent snow damage, fix a polythene lid over the windbreak.

Take hardwood cuttings of Elaeagnus pungens, ivy, poplar, ribes and willow (Salix). Select strong, firm shoots about 30cm (1ft) long and insert them in sandy soil in a cold frame or in open ground. Plant out the cuttings in their permanent positions the following spring. Take hardwood cuttings of winter jasmine and root in a covered cold frame.

To propagate actinidia, layer firm young shoots in pots of compost sunk into the ground round the parent plant. The following spring, when the layers have made enough roots, sever them from the parents and plant out.

Examine cuttings in cold frames and in open ground, and firm in any that have been lifted or loosened by frost.


Prepare the sites where hedges are to be planted if this was not done in early or mid autumn, and complete planting as soon as possible.

If the site is not ready when the plants are delivered, separate the plants in the bundles and bury the roots in shallow trenches. Lay the plants at an angle so that they are not blown about too much while awaiting planting.

18. June 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Garden Management, Gardening Calendar | Tags: , | Comments Off on Gardening Calendar: Jobs for Late Autumn


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