Gardening Tasks for Early Autumn
For the first two or three weeks continue dead-heading and cutting back. Hoe new beds prepared in mid or late summer, particularly if deep digging was followed soon afterwards by rain.
Continue to harden-off rooted cuttings of garden pinks (Dianthus) and plant them out when growing strongly. Towards the end of early autumn, stop pinks that start to run to flower without making good side-shoots. Do this in early morning during damp weather when the tops snap off most easily.
Continue frequent watering of plants in containers and remove faded. Discard plants that are past their best and prepare empty containers for spring bulbs. Replenish the compost and plant the bulbs slightly deeper than normally recommended so that plants for winter colour can be placed on top. Empty containers that will not be used during the winter and store timber containers under cover.
Remove fading annuals to make room for spring bedding plants. In mild districts and on well drained soils, direct-sow the hardiest of the annuals — such as calendula, cornflower (Centaurea) and candytuft (Iberis) — to over-winter outdoors. Plants that are 5-7.5cm (2-3in) high by mid winter stand the best chance of coming through harsh weather.
Water hardy biennials growing in rows in a nursery bed, then plant out in their flowering positions the next day. Water the ground thoroughly beforehand if the weather is dry. Set the plants out with a trowel and water generously around their roots.
Outdoor types are now in full flower. Label the best for next year’s stock. Cut fully open blooms for the house.
Bulbs and tubers
Plant bulbs — preferably in groups — between shrubs or herbaceous plants, in rock gardens and in lawns. Bury each bulb twice as deep as its height. For instance, a 5cm (2in) tall daffodil bulb should be covered with 10cm (4in) of.
Pot up bulbs for indoor flowering during winter and spring. Towards the end of early autumn, use bulbs to replace unattractive summer bedding. Plant the bulbs on their own, or between wallflowers, forget-me-nots and polyanthus.
With dahlias, check stakes and ties to prevent gale damage. Give a fortnightly liquid feed to maintain good quality blooms and build up strong tubers.
Continue to dead-head faded blooms. On weak plants, cut the stem above the first leaf; on vigorous plants cut off faded blooms with one or two leaves.
Disbud Hybrid Teas to maintain the quality of blooms. To encourage hardening of new wood before the first frost, feed with sulphate of potash by scattering a handful per sq m/yd over the surface of the bed, leaving a 15cm (6in) circle round each bush. Alternatively, use wood ash at the rate of two handfuls per sq m/yd. Hoe lightly into the surface soil.
Bend and tie in shoots of climbers to form a fan shape. This will encourage the sprouting of new side-shoots which will bear flowers. Make sure the ties are tight enough to hold the stems in place, but loose enough to allow for thickening of the stems.
Prune climbing and ramblingwhich have only one flush of blooms, as well as weeping standards, removing old growth which has flowered this summer. Also take cuttings from strong side-shoots of mature wood. Floribundas and Hybrid Teas can sometimes be propagated successfully in the same way.
Spray regularly againstand continue to spray to prevent greenfly and disease.
Shrubs and trees
At the beginning of early autumn, dig the ground thoroughly in preparation for the planting of trees and shrubs later on. Incorporate plenty ofor well-rotted manure into the soil, but avoid quick-acting fertilizers.
Start planting evergreens — preferably during showery weather — at the end of early autumn. Use stakes to support upright shrubs until they are established. During dry spells, water freely and spray the foliage with water to prevent leaf drop.
Propagate berberis, griselinia, juniper, phlomis, potentilla, privet and yew from hardwood and half-ripe cuttings taken with a heel. Root in sandy soil in a shaded cold frame or in sheltered, shady, open ground. In cold weather, cover cuttings in open ground with cloches. Hardy species should be ready to plant out the following spring, while tender or semi-hardy species should be potted singly and kept in the cold frame before planting out in late spring to early summer.
Late-flowering shrubs, such as phlomis and senecio, need lightafter flowering.
Clip new growth for the last time this season, but leave aloneplants which flower on new shoots in spring, such as berberis and forsythia.
Remove any remaining weeds around the base of a hedge before they set seed and either burn them or put them on the compost heap. Do not leave weeds on the surface at this time of year as they will take root again.
Sow parsley and chervil for a spring crop. Take cuttings of bay and rue, and root them in a shaded cold frame.