They’re one of the easiest crops to grow and often one of the first you’ll harvest, so get them in the ground now spring has sprung. By now your soil, and the weather, will have warmed up enough to freely plant broad bean seed in the ground, with no need for cloches or greenhouse sowing. As long as they’re in a well-draining spot in relative shelter they’ll be fine.
If you have Okra, which has an aubergine-like taste, it can be started off indoors between now and April for a harvest in summer and autumn. Grow it in a greenhouse or outside in a container in a sheltered spot in warmer climates. Fill a tray with seed compost and tap it down to let it settle. Space seeds on the surface, cover with a thin layer of compost and water in. When the plants are big enough to handle in May to early June, transplant into 23-25cm (9-10in) pots, growing bags or the greenhouse border.
Start okra particularly wet soil, though, or claggy clay, you may want to still raise your beans indoors in pots to start with, before planting them out, nicely grown, in late spring. There are dwarf varieties that may not need staking and keep compact growth, such as ‘The Sutton’ and ‘Robin Hood’, but tall-growing varieties will need hefty staking or they’ll fall over.
There are a few problems you may encounter, meaning unhealthy plants and fewer beans to harvest, pesky blackfly being on! Pick them off as soon as you see them, pinching off the top tips of the plant if you need to when they cluster there. Otherwise Bug Clear spray is a good preventative measure. Make sure you water your beans well, too, as they may not set fruit if they’re too thirsty.
It’s an easy and interesting way to propagate
It’s that time of year when many of your plants are in their dormant stage, overwintering in the ground nicely before waking up to produce a spectacular display next year. While they’re at this stage, you can be propagating them by taking root cuttings, an easy and interesting job to carry out. Basically, lots of plants are very willing to regrow from cuttings taken from various parts of their anatomy, and acanthus, Oriental poppies, phlox and verbascum are just some of the flowers that respond really well to this root method. This is because their roots are particularly fleshy and robust.
But why take root cuttings now instead of by other means? This is because they’re low maintenance. You simply need to place your cuttings in a cold frame and kept lightly moist until spring. Also, being propagated straight from the root means new plants grown from these cuttings will be extra strong and vigorous – just be sure you initially choose a healthy plant’s roots to start with. Not to mention that cuttings taken now frees you up during the rest of the year to get on with all those other garden jobs that need doing. Next spring, be sure to pot up your well-rooted cuttings, grow them on and then plant out the year after.
Gather autumn bounty for floral arrangements
There’s so much that can be gleaned from the garden to make your own seasonal display, in the brightest of colours down to the beautiful mute browns reminiscent of this time of year. Even plants that have died and faded to produce seed heads are beautiful, and truly capture the spirit of late autumn! Basically, anything goes. Harvest all the colourful, interesting plants you can, and it may be that this forms part of your pruning and general garden tidy up now, too. It’s best to keep it a dry arrangement with no water, so that dry stems don’t rot. You can simply just replace the live blooms that fade quickly with others.
Get in the spirit of the season and turn your patio, conservatory or garden table into a Halloween spooktacular! Perhaps you've been growing pumpkins and squash varieties and can only eat so much pie and soup! Then put the surplus to good use int he display, planting them up with contrasting seasonal bedding such as purple violas. Just scoop out the flesh as normal, fill with multi-purpose compost and plant up as a container. Choose orange, black, blood-red and purple plants and orange and black plant pots and candles to up the scare appeal.
As well as Halloween, your arrangement can also be a wonderful celebration of the season. In fact, apart from the pumpkins, your display will last long into the next month and beyond as a late autumn display, giving a beautiful muted orange hue to the garden long after Halloween has gone! Plus, you'll be enjoying the skimmlas, grasses and pitcher plants well into the next few years.
Cyclamen will give you sharp bursts of colour
Not many plants will be happy languishing in the shade underneath a large tree, but some, such as cyclamen, positively love it! Why not make your own mini woodland with low-growing, sharp bursts of colour from these perennial favourites? Plus you can have different coloured species giving you flowers for six months of the year.
Be sure to choose hardy species, as detailed below. As for planting, space plants about 30cm (1ft) apart for a sparser look, and to leave room for naturalising, or you can plant densely at about 20cm (8in) for more wow factor. If you’re planting into a grassy area, dig out a small sod from the top of your planting hole, ready to be replaced later, then dig a hole deep and big enough for the plants’ root system. Try and dig in a little compost or leaf mould into each hole, to nourish the plants and water well.
Place the plants in, backfill with a little soil and replace as much of the top of the piece of turf as possible. If you’re planting into bare soil, mulch around plants with bark to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Over the next few years, your wild cyclamen spot will increase in size.
Many tall or large, gangly shrubs like roses will need a prune now to prevent them from getting damaged by wind rock. Autumn and winter winds mean your plants get pushed and pulled around ultimately by their roots, which obviously anchor them to the soil. Roots can rip and come loose, making for an unstable, unhealthy plant. Water may even collect in the soil gaps created, which can increase the chance of rotting, too. Trim back one third of the branch growth, down to a bud, which will help prevent the worst of the wind becoming harmful. Make sure the bud is facing the way you want your branches to grow.
There’s still so much colour you can add to the garden
What many see as the ‘off season’ is really a misnomer, with arguably the most colourful and interesting plants of all. One way you can add some brightness and beauty to your garden is with a rockery, with many alpines and rockery plants coming into their own now. Create your own little permanent mound or, better still, plant up a mobile feature in a wheelbarrow, which can be moved at different times of the year, for example, to a sheltered spot in autumn.
By their nature, rockery and alpine plants love well-drained spots, rocky slopes and sun, so have a go at recreating a naturalistic mini version. The plants listed below are extremely robust, standing firm through winter, many also being evergreen, and furnishing you with more flowers next spring, summer and autumn.
The plants we used: Cyclamen hederifolium, sedums ‘Rose Carpet’ and ‘Ruby Glow’, gentiana ‘Shot Silk’, scutellaria ‘Texas Rose’, rhodohypoxis ‘Claret’, plus evergreens: heather, sea thrift, Taxus baccata ‘Standishii’, juniper Icee Blue, and Pinus mugo ‘Humpy’.
Get more of your favourite plants by growing your own
It’s easy to get excited by all the beautiful berried plants at this time of year, as they light up the garden with clusters of colour. Red, orange and yellow pyracantha, rowan and hawthorn berries are all prolific, as are drooping bunches of rose hips.
If you’d like to extend your collection, propagating is an easy way to do so. Using the seed is so simple, and often more fail-safe than taking cuttings. Plus, the exciting part is that the offspring of your seed-raised plants will be slightly different to its parent in colour, form and habit, which adds a bit of a thrill to the process.
Cuttings, on the other hand, give out exact clones of the originals, and may not be as healthy as seed-grown plants.
It’s best to sow seed now rather than saving it and waiting until spring, as it may not be successful at germinating then because it’s too old. Transplant tray-grown seedlings into bigger pots as soon as you can next year, and harden them off outside in spring, before planting them out in autumn.
Step by step: extracting and sowing seed
Boston ivy's wine-red foliage is a magnificent sight
At this time of year, we're all trying to put as much colour into the garden as possible and replicate the vivid colours of summer. Some climbers are wonderful for scent and flowers but, in autumn in particular, there are many with awe-inspiring foliage.
Being planted here is Boston ivy or parthenocissus 'Veitchii' a fast growing climber that's happy in a sunny or shady spot. It'll take up to two years to establish, but the effect of it's wine-red foliage growing up a tree, through a hedge or over an old chimney is magnificent.
It's also a classic for the wall of a house, but it has been known to damage brickwork over time and it needs controlling with a good prune in the winter.
Planting it in a large pot is a good way to keep it in check. Water well and support it with tall canes to start with and then, as it grows, try it up a large obelisk or pergola for a stunning autumn garden feature.
It will help keep you free of all problem pests!
The sure-fire way to prevent birds and other animals attacking and eating your plump, ripening fruit is to use a good old-fashioned net to cover them. As our garden animals, insects and birds can’t distinguish between berried bushes that are there for them to eat and those we grow for our own use, we’ve no choice but to do something about it at this time of year.
Now your autumn fruit trees have been pollinated and the fruit is set and ripening, you can invest in a good solid roll of mesh from the garden centre, which will prevent against birds, wasps, squirrels, aphids, hard rain damage and hail.
If you only have problems with birds, you can use larger- holed bird netting, but to be free of all problem pests, use a tight mesh that only lets rainfall in. Keep checking it regularly to ensure it’s still tight and secure.
As well as larger trees, net over your autumn raspberry and blackberry bushes, too.
The common pests to watch out for!
It’s so easy and you’ll be rewarded with blooms!
Your lily flowers have probably seen better days this year so why not try and increase your stock? Lilies, as well as most other bulbs, are keen to propagate, it cam become a little bit of an obsession – next year you’ll soon have pots and pots of deliciously fragment blooms you won’t know what to do! Once you’ve potted up your scales and bulblets following the guide below, grow them in a frost free greenhouse over winter and plant them out in spring once established.
Step by Step
- Lift out a healthy lily bulb by the plant clean it and discard any damaged outer scales.
- Carefully snap off some scales from the bulb with as much of the base of the scale intact as possible.
- Put the scales in a bag of coir compost and handful of perlite. Shake, seal and put in the airing cupboard for six weeks.
- Bulblets will appear on the scales. When they do, pot them on individually covered with a layer of compost.
Veg plots are ticking along nicely now the flurry of early summer sowing and planting is over and the rewards of plentiful fruits, veg and salads are being enjoyed.
With the breathing space this brings it’s a good time to plan out a new border, perhaps for long-term plants. If you have a space that’s not currently in use, consider planting it up with perennials that will provide you with food year after year. Depending on whether the spot is sunny or shady, you can find perennial vegetable plants for most situations.
This permanent feature in your veg plot will be lower maintenance than an area that’s constantly being rotated with different crops. With perennial veg, you plant once and eat forever! It will simply need regular weeding, mulching and watering if the weather is very dry.
Buy pot-grown plants and thoroughly soak the roots before planting on a cool day. Water plants frequently through the rest of the summer. Globe artichokes, horseradish and asparagus are three of the best perennial vegetables to grow in a sunny position. If your site is shady, opt for shade-tolerating fruits such as rhubarb, gooseberry or alpine strawberry.
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