Late Autumn Jobs in the Flower Garden

Jobs to do


Beds and borders in which the small, temporary plants are to be grown do not require tremendous excavations; provided the humus and nutrients are renewed in them every year, they need only be dug to the depth of a spade (spit), rotted organic matter being mixed into them at the same time. You can spread this on the surface first, or mix it in with a fork after the main digging has been done.

Loamy soils, which already have a good structure, drain well and contain nutrients easily available to the plant’s roots, need only have a moderate dressing applied, about 2.5kg per sq m (5lb per sq yd). Those which are on the heavy side and contain clay, making them sticky when wet and concrete-like when dry, may need about 3.5kg (7lb) for the same area, but if you find plants become very leafy and large as a result, reduce the application in the following years to 2.5kg per sq m (5lb per sq yd), or less (a light dressing). Soils which contain sand, shale, pebbles, shingle or chalk in appreciable quantities will need at least 5kg per sq m (10lb per sq yd), in other words a heavy application. Even so, they should have mulches of organic matter given to the plants all through the growing season.

Organic matter consists of the remains of vegetable or animal organisms, rotted down into a dark-brown, moist, crumbly material without smell. Though farm manure is excellent, it is difficult to obtain, but a good substitute is compost made in the garden. Other materials to use are leafmould, rotted straw, spent mushroom compost, seaweed, poultry deep litter, treated sewage sludge, spent hops, or peat. Treated sewage sludge can be obtained from local councils, who should provide an analysis of the nutrient content; you should also find out what the heavy metal content is, otherwise you may unwittingly be building up toxic amounts of copper, zinc and other metals contained in sewage sludge, in the soil.

Single digging should also be sufficient if you are planning to plant bulbs. Remember that they generally do best in light soil, so work coarse sand or grit into heavy soils at the same time, at up to 3.5kg per sq m (7lb per sq yd).

Herbaceous perennials anchor themselves deeply an widely, not surprisingly, since some may grow 150 or 180cm (5 or 6ft) tall, and must have correspondingly deep an well-worked soil. Double digging is ideal, to two spits deep organic matter being mixed with both spits if it can be spared. The first spit, or topsoil, should be kept separate from the second one, and you will need to have two trenches, side by side, going all the time. The soil from the top and second spit of the initial trench and from the top spit of the second trench should be removed to the other end of the bed an used for filling in the last two trenches. By this method, is then possible to dig out and throw soil forward into the trench being worked, without the constant need to climb I and out.

Remember that digging of this kind is heavy work an should be taken slowly, a little at a time. You can cheat an go in for half-trenching, that is, digging one spit, and the forking up the bottom of the trench, at the same time mixing organic matter with it but, unless you are dealing with an exceptionally good soil, results will not be as good. Double digging is also necessary for first-class sweetpeas as they are strong, fast-growing plants with a large root system; even with the modern bushy sweetpeas you will get more flowers and brighter colours with thorough cultivation of this kind.

If you are fortunate enough to own a rotavator, this can be used, but unless it is one of the bigger, market-garden-type models, the tines will only penetrate about 22.5cm (8-1/2in) deep. Repeated use each year will result in the formation of a ‘pan’, a compacted internal surface just below the limit of the tine penetration, which will have to be dug or forked at some time.

Once the digging or cultivation has been finished, the soil can be left through the winter, even if it is still lumpy, because the action of rain, frost and snow will ensure that these lumps are easily knocked down into much smaller pieces by the use of a fork when spring comes.

Preparing the soil for planting

Some bulbs planted now will still flower at the right time next spring, so soil should be prepared accordingly, if not already done in mid-autumn.


Some experts advise that tulips should not be planted until the beginning of late autumn so, if you did not get them in earlier, little has been lost, even with the early spring-flowering species tulips. Winter aconites and other such bulbs as crocus, daffodils, narcissus and hyacinth will have a lot of catching up to do, so expect them to flower late from a planting of this date.


Although growing a lawn from turf is said to be seven times more expensive than from seed, it does mean instant lawn, with none of the anxiety associated with nursing grass seedlings through attacks by birds, competition with weeds, drought, cold, waterlogging and leather-jacket damage. Provided you lay the turves correctly, in suitable weather conditions, the lawn will be established, to all intents and purposes, from the first two or three weeks.

Turves are either 90 x30cm (3ft x 1ft), or 30 x 30cm (1ft x 1ft); they should be about 4cm (1-1/2 in) thick, consisting of a uniform mixture of grasses, without weeds.

You will have prepared the soil in mid-autumn and no\ you need only apply and rake in superphosphate at about 30g per sq m (1oz per sq yd) a week or so before laying the turves. Choose a day when the soil is moist and the weather mild, with the possibility of rain to come, and lay the firs line up and down the length of the site, starting at the edge Put each turf down slightly looped, and gently tap it flat when the line next to it has been laid. This ensures a tight fit, as does knocking the edge of the second line against the first, and so on, as the work progresses. In order to get bonding effect, start alternate lines with half a turf. All this will ensure quick and successful knitting of the turves.

laying turf - stand on a board to prevent soil compaction

As you work, use a standing board to avoid compaction of the soil or turves; when the job is finished, do not use a roller, but fill in the cracks with topdressing mixture or coarse sand, brushing it in as you go. Make sure that all the edges finish with full size turves, not narrow strips, otherwise the edge will be ragged and messy. Push soil up against the outside turves when laid; this prevents the exposed face of the turf drying out and becoming uneven.


Established lawns may need one last light cut; turfed lawns can be topped, if required, two or three weeks after laying and a lawn from seed sown in early autumn may just need its first cut.


Sweetpea seedlings which have not been so treated should have the growing tip removed just above the third pair of leaves.


Rock plants with woolly or grey leaves will need a cover against winter wet; it is not so much cold which kills them as sodden roots and repeatedly soaked leaves. A gravel mulch round the plants to keep the leaves off the soil and cloches above them will keep them in good condition through the winter. Cloches put over the Christmas roses, too, will en-courage them to unfold their petals and keep them free of mud. Agapanthus will be the better for a 15cm (6in) deep mulch of leaves, straw, peat or bracken and kniphofia can be treated similarly, to ensure their certain survival.


The leaves start to come down with a vengeance in late autumn, and it is even more vital to clear them off lawns, especially newly sown ones, and off small plants, whether seedlings, rock plants or herbaceous plants. Get them out of the pool, too, and collect them off drives and paths before they begin to rot and become dangerously slippery. In general, there will be an over-all clearing up of rubbish blown about by autumn gales.


Christmas-flowering bulbs should be brought into light during late autumn when about 2.5cm (1in) of leaf and flower bud is showing and treated as specified by the nurseryman who supplied them. In general, they should be kept cool, at about 7°C (45°F) for the first few days while the leaves become green, and then given warmth gradually, with as much light as possible.

Cutting down

As the earliest of the late-flowering chrysanthemums finish blooming, the stems should be cut back to leave about 7.5cm (3in) of stump and the crowns in their pots put under the staging, for the time being, keeping the compost just moist.

Greenhouse work

As the light becomes less, in quantity and quality, with the approach of the end of the year, the glazing should be kept clean and clear of condensation at all times. Artificial heat will be needed most of the time, but not much ventilation, just enough to prevent a ‘stuffy’ atmosphere. Water in the mornings only, if needed, remove fallen and decaying vegetation and watch for missed pockets of greenfly or whitefly, especially on fuchsias, cinerarias and cyclamen. The greenhouse in winter is a haven for pests and diseases and is the one place where you will still have to be really vigilant.

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


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