It makes sense to have a general idea of how you want your garden to develop over time, even a bold plan, but I’d always leave room for modifications. Fruit, vegetable and ornamental borders are often created where a large area of mown grass exists. Conversely, existing plots for decorative and edible crops are occasionally turned into lawn.
A medium-term plan is at the heart of this fellow’s gardening thoughts right now. I’m anticipating the raspberry, apple and grape harvesting to continue until late November as usual.
Some main crop vegetables are stored and others, still growing, are monitored for use directly from the garden over winter. Once fruit production has ceased all fruit trees and bushes, except the plum will be pruned.
A leaf lettuce crop cultivated in the cold greenhouse border produces a fresh supply from September to March. The first batch, a tangy concoction of ‘Oriental Wonders’ and ‘Spicy Mix’ were sown on August 25 and germinated four days later. We’re already using them as micro-leaves.
‘Salad Bowl Mix’ was sown last week and seedlings are just appearing. The border they grow in was cleared of a tomato crop recently. After weeding and a dressing of blood, fish and bone, it was forked over, raked and soaked before sowing.
The salvage operation that involves plants unable to stand outdoor conditions over winter, began recently and continues until November.
This demands bench space in the cold greenhouse where chrysanthemums and dahlias, severely pruned and replanted in boxes of spent compost, will tick over until late winter shoots destined for propagation appear. Anything planted permanently outside or in a container too large to move, is offered protection in situ. The olive, citrus fruits and bay trees are in manageable containers easily transported via sack barrow to greenhouse in November.
Medium term planning includes nature’s planting time, and an opportunity to introduce new specimens or dig up, divide and move existing types. By November, deciduous trees and shrubs have entered a period of dormancy and shed most of their leaves. Herbaceous perennials have spent top growth ready for removal, allowing clear access to the plant.
Although the air temperature plummets as autumn deepens, that of the soil remains relatively warm. Any fruit or ornamental plants introduced during this period are therefore encouraged to produce new roots in advance of ground frost. Take advantage of this period by planting hardwood cuttings of your favourite shrubs or fruit bushes, in the garden where they root at leisure.
Mixed ornamental borders are still a mass of summer growth, some going into decline, yet more still fresh. Tall shrubs such as buddleja that have ceased flowering can be reduced to half their height to avoid wind-rock. Leaving other deciduous shrubs, fruit trees and bushes until after leaf-fall has its advantages. You can then see all the stems clearly and prune to shape or remove diseased/damaged branches with confidence. Don`t remove spent blooms of hydrangea. They protect next year`s embryo flower buds from frost.
There are 12 weeks or so to go until you know what, and a similar time beyond until the cuckoo arrives, and both periods are part of my medium-term plan. How else could we have fresh, home-grown potatoes for the festive meal and fragrant indoor bulb displays to accompany them. Beyond that lie thoughts of spring displays which demand action now.
The planting of potatoes and flowering bulbs in containers are current priorities because both need ten weeks from starting to maturity. Personal favourites are potato ‘Charlotte’ and hyacinths in white and pink. In each case it’s important to use tubers or bulbs that have been ‘prepared’ or programmed to perform as though summer had returned from the moment you plant them.
Half fill a large pot with soil or compost and push three potatoes, eyes up, just below the surface. Complete filling the pot, water and stand in a position of full light. The cold greenhouse suits mine fine. As shoots appear keep the compost moist.
Hyacinths are planted in bowls with their tips showing just above the moist compost or bulb fibre. They need to be stored in a dark, cold environment, possibly a garage or shed, and protected from nibbling mice. After eight weeks in the dark, which encourages root development, wean them gradually into daylight and stand by for flowering.