So, I am a bit of a sun worshiper myself, I love the hot summer days and the warm summer evenings and it has been a fantastic summer so far this year. I know as a gardener we should be wanting a bit more rain, but this is what summer is all about surely? As a family we eat as many of our meals outdoors as we can and try to make the most of every opportunity to be outside. Its great to see the kids playing in the garden right up until bedtime and then being able to sit outside and enjoy the evenings.
That said, towards the end of August you always get the tale-tell signs that autumn is not far away. The mornings take on a certain autumnal smell and the evenings are no longer warm enough to sit outside. Despite my love of the summer days, as I get older, I seem to find myself secretly enjoying the fact that autumn is closing in. Perhaps there is something comforting and cosy about the thought of chillier days, perhaps it’s the return to the old routine, the children are back at school, the rugby season kicks off (#coyc!) and I don’t have to feel guilty about sitting inside and watching TV in the evening!
Its similar in the garden as well. Much as I love the first signs of spring and that fantastic first flush of growth, I always find managing the garden quite difficult as summer goes on. What do you do with those things that get a bit too leggy and a bit disease ridden? Some plants have a few flowers on them but not really enough for a good show. I know I should have done the “Chelsea chop” weeks ago but I didn’t have the heart to do it then and it’s too late now!
So, if I am totally honest, I do find autumn a bit of a relief from the pressure of needing to make the most of summer. It’s a great time to start to get the garden back under control again and to put back what has been used up during the summer months. Your lawn will have been put under an extreme amount of stress over the summer especially if kids (or you) have been playing on it. It will need some TLC in the form of an autumn lawn treatment and maybe even aerating, top dressing and over-seeding if bald patches have developed.
Perhaps you have a lovey patch of wildflowers growing? Now (early autumn, late summer) is the time to cut these backs once they have finished flowering. Allow ripened seed heads to fall and leave them on the ground for a week or two. They should then be removed and composted to that the soil stays poor and any grass is kept to a minimum.
As the leaves start to fall make sure you clear these from the lawn. They can smother the grass causing all sorts of problems. Fallen leaves are perfect for making leaf mould. Just rake them up and put them into black bin liners. If the leaves are dry, add a little water then poke a few holes in the liner. Leave them in a shady, hidden part of the garden where you can forget about them for a year, ideally two. Afterwards you will have a fantastic mulch to use in the autumn. Leave them even longer and it produces some lovely seed sowing compost.
Autumn is a great time for planting as well. The ground has more moisture than in the summer and has been warmed nicely for things to get a bit of growing done before the winter meaning that they will be away like a shot next spring. This goes for any trees, shrubs and perennial herbaceous plants you might be thinking about for next year.
Of course, the stars of the show in the autumn are the spring flowering bulbs. Narcissi, tulips, alliums and fritillarias can all start going in from now onwards, ready to put on a show for next year’s spring to start all over again.