Early Autumn Jobs in the Flower Garden

Jobs to do

Preparing the soil for sowing seed outdoors

The soil can be prepared for sowing seed in beds and borders, in a nursery bed and on a site designated for a lawn. The preliminary digging and levelling where necessary should have been done in late summer, and now only the finishing touches need be applied early in autumn.

Preparing the soil for planting outdoors

Most of the plants to be put in now will be small ones; it is also the planting time for bulbs. The small plants will take more happily if the soil is reasonably crumb-like, moist but not soggy and contains a dressing of a phosphatic fertilizer, such as bonemeal, worked in two weeks in advance of planting. Use it at a rate of 90g per sq m (3oz per sq yd).

Bulbs do better with good drainage, though any reasonable soil will maintain a satisfactory display of flowers, given the same phosphatic dressing. However, lilies are more demanding and should have grit or coarse silver sand mixed into the soil to lighten it, for average-to-heavy soils. Single digging will be sufficient for all these.

You can also begin to prepare beds and borders where herbaceous perennials are to be grown for the first time; this is a much bigger job, since the plants will be in for some years and cultivation needs to be thorough. Many perennials are deep rooting and double digging is advisable, mixing in rotted organic matter as you go. However, if the topsoil depth is shallow, one spit deep will be all that can be managed; be particularly careful to mix compost or manure with the soil in the bottom of the trench, as well as with the topsoil.

Preparing compost for sowing and potting under glass Fortunately, there is correspondingly less work here, to compensate for the increase in outdoor work; there will be some sowing, a fitting potting and some pricking out; you may have sufficient compost made up or bought.

Sowing seed outdoors

Early autumn is a good time to sow sweetpeas, for flowering in early summer; if you plant them in the soil of the greenhouse in mid-winter, they should begin to flower in late spring, given enough artificial heat to keep the frost out.

They will be in their pots through the winter, but not growing very much, so J.I. Potting compost No. 1 or its equivalent will provide the right quantity of food. Sweet-peas grow a long tap root and there is a type of disposable plastic cup which is just right for them, as it is long in proportion to its diameter. A drainage hole in the base, made by applying heat, is necessary.

Sow the seeds, one to a 5cm (2in) diameter container, covered with their own depth of compost. Some varieties are slow to germinate but can be encouraged to do so by making a little nick in the seed-coat with a knife. Put the pots in a closed cold frame and expect germination to start in about ten days’ time; make sure mice cannot get at them.

The best time to sow is the middle of early autumn for the colder gardens but for the sheltered and warmer ones the end of early autumn or even the beginning of mid-autumn is preferable. After germination, take off the light but protect the seedlings from sparrows, as they nip off the young tips and leaves at a very early stage.

Quite a good choice of hardy annuals can be sown now, in their flowering positions, for flowering late next spring onwards; these include annual chrysanthemum, clarkia, cornflower, eschscholzia, godetia, larkspur, limnanthes, marigold (calendula), nigella (love-in-a-mist) and viscaria. These are all particularly hardy and, provided they are sown sometime during the first two weeks of this season, will be of a suitable size to withstand cold by the time winter comes.

Grass seed for new lawns can be sown.

Planting outdoors

aquilegias grow wild in southern Europe. In gardens they are easily raised in sun or shade, in most soilsAutumn is the great season for planting spring-flowering bulbs and you can put in, the earlier the better, those listed for early-autumn planting in the table of bulbs given in Late Summer. Though none relishes organic matter, bone-meal or hoof and horn give them a good start, each mixed with the soil 10 days or so before planting at 90g per sq m (3oz per sq yd).

Lilies (except Lilium candidum) can also be planted in early or mid-autumn, giving them the same kind of soil treatment. An exception is L. davidii, which needs leaf-mould mixed into the soil before planting to flower at its best. The stem-rooting kinds, such as L. auratum, bulbiferum croceum, davidii, formosanum, longiflorum, regale, speciosum and tigrinum, should be planted 15cm (Gin) deep; those that require acid soils are L. auratum, formosanum, longiflorum, speciosum and tigrinum, but L. candidum definitely needs a little lime. L. martagon, the purple turkscap, and L. pardalinum, the leopard lily, should be planted 10cm (4in) deep. Put them all in with a little silver sand beneath the bulb for perfect drainage.


Pansy seedlings put out in a nursery-bed in late summer can be transplanted in early autumn to their permanent flowering positions, whether a bed outdoors or a windowbox or trough on a balcony or patio. Use a trowel and lift them with plenty of soil to keep the roots as complete as possible; replant slightly deeper than their previous level, firm in well and water. Distance to plant apart outdoors is 22.5-30cm (9-12in), the latter in heavy soils, but in containers they can be spaced 15cm (6in) apart.

The primulas and polyanthus which were sown in early summer, can be planted where they are to flower, spacing them 15-23cm (6-9in) apart each way.

If border carnations were not planted directly into the soil, they can be transplanted from their pots now into a sunny position where they are to flower.

Pricking out

The schizanthus sown in late summer will need pricking out. To keep them from growing thin and leggy, they should be moved as soon as large enough to handle. Put them 5cm (2in) apart in seed boxes. If the cyclamen have started to germinate, move them also when they have two leaves and a tiny tuber, and put them about 4cm (1-1/2in) apart. Keep the temperature warm, especially at night towards the end of early autumn when the weather begins to cool off.

more on Flower Garden Tasks in Early Autumn …

29. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Flower Garden, Types of Gardens | Tags: , | Comments Off on Early Autumn Jobs in the Flower Garden


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