by Janis on 13th October 2023 / 0 comments

Pruning, tidying, and planting

We’ve just returned from a trip to Spain, and arriving back home to the southeast of the UK, it certainly feels like autumn has arrived. Temperatures have noticeably dropped, and the leaves are beginning to change colour.

Although having said that, our wonderful Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ is still brightening up our garden and making us smile.

However, with autumn arriving, it is now time to start preparing our garden and patio for the months ahead. There’s always something to be done in your lovely garden; whether you have a traditional country garden with seasonal beds, a courtyard garden, or an allotment, the tasks seem to be endless.

I appreciate that everyone’s garden is different. We all have our list of jobs that need to be done within our own plots; however, here are a few tasks that we are undertaking this autumn.


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Pruning, snipping & thinning

Autumnal haircuts

Firstly, if you have lavender in your garden that you wish to prune, I suggest you trim it as soon as possible if you haven’t done so already,

We have six Lavender Munstead in our little Provence border, and I want to keep them looking compact and bushy as much as I can.

Six lavender plants, before pruning, in our little provence bed in autumn
Lavender before

This is a relatively easy task to undertake. Remove the stalks that have flowered; the leaf stems should then be cut back so that there is around 1 inch of green growth above the woodier stems below, and shape as you wish.

Do not cut into the dead wood of your lavender, as your treasured plant may die; I’ve learnt from my mistakes.

Six lavender plants, after pruning, in our little provence bed in autumn
Lavender after

Keep an eye on your garden perennials, as once the flower heads and the foliage have died and turned brown, cut off the faded stems. Ensure you prune them just above any new shoots or buds. Here’s a little guide on the pruning groups.

Depending on where you live, the month of October is the ideal time to cover some of your delicate plants, especially tree ferns, with horticultural fleece. The cold weather is looming, and the threat of overnight frosts is on the horizon.

Collecting precious seeds

You’ll have free plants for next year

Collecting seeds from your beloved plants throughout the flowering season is a fantastic idea. It’s so rewarding when you sow them the following year, and the fruits of your labour are there to see.

It makes me smile when I spot their little heads poking through the compost; you’ve managed to keep the cycle going. And what makes it even more satisfying is that they are all free.

Little brown envelopes full of seeds collected from our existing plants in our cottage garden.
Hand collected seeds

Another reason it’s a good idea to collect seeds is that your perennials may not return the following year, and you’re left with nothing.

We’ve had lots of Aquilegias in our garden for years, and suddenly, this season, hardly any reappeared. Luckily, I collected some seeds from Aquilegias last year, so hopefully, when I propagate them next year, I’ll see them all again.

Five dried poppy heads still in situ in our cottage garden bed in autumn
Poppy heads ready for collecting seeds

If you have any late flowering plants that have now gone to seed, it’s time to gather up the seeds, place them in paper envelopes, and store them in a dry place.

Oh yes, and don’t forget to label the envelopes; it’s also handy if you know the variety. However, if I’m unsure of the name, I make a little note of where they were in the garden.

Sheltering our softwood saplings

It’s time to take hardwood cuttings

Last year, I took some softwood cuttings from our Spiraea ‘Bridal Wreath’ and our Salvia ‘Hot Lips’, and incredibly, 9 out of the 10 cuttings were successful; I couldn’t believe it.

I hoped it wasn’t just beginners’ luck, so this year, I took some more softwood cuttings from my Erysimum ‘Bowels Mauve’, a Ribes and a few Fuchsias. My success rate was around 50/50, so not too bad.

Some softwood cuttings covered with bags on a shelf in our coldframe
Softwood cuttings in their bags

In August, I took some more cuttings from our Fuchsias, Salvia ‘Cherry Lips’ and Perovskia Blue Spire, and they are doing pretty well. I’ll pot them on separately to individual pots and keep them protected and watered over winter.

I’m not planning on taking any hardwood cuttings this year; however, now is an ideal time to do this, as the soil in the UK is still usually moist and warm.

Some softwood cuttings potted on in a shelf in our coldframe
Softwood cuttings
Ensure you research in detail the particular shrubs you wish to take hardwood cuttings from, as ‘one size does not fit all’. Some shrubs which you think are hardy may need propagating in spring.

Purchasing bulbs for the spring

They’ll bring a smile to your face

Our country garden was missing springtime colour, so last year, I went overboard and purchased over 500 hundred bulbs. It seemed a good idea at the time; however, filling all my patio pots with bulbs and then planting them in the garden on my hands and knees didn’t seem quite as fun.

I tried the ‘Lasagne’ method when planting my spring bulbs in pots, and it worked a treat.

Daffodils sprouting between already flowering dwarf iris plants in a container planted out using the Lasagne method
Lasagne method planting

In hindsight, though, it was all worthwhile; we had a swathe of colour for months. The majority of the bulbs were a hit, and a few were a miss. For some reason, our snowdrops were nowhere to be seen.

We’ve decided we would like a few more bulbs this year, especially alliums; our selection looked stunning. However, I think we need extra to make a real visual impact.

Three dusty pink tulips in a line in front of a plane grey wooden fence on the patio of our garden
Pink tulips in spring
We purchase our bulbs from J. Parker’s, which has a vast range of bulbs and regularly has special offers. Now is the perfect time to buy your spring bulbs, as it will allow you time to plant them all through October and November.

Refreshing your patio pots

Ready for a fresh splash of colour

Once your annual patio plants have come to the end of their flowering season, it’s time to remove them and clean up your pots. Our patio is relatively well protected, so some of our bedding plants are still in bloom, so I’m reluctant to remove them at the moment.

However, our tomato plants that we were growing in grow bags have now been removed and composted.

A pile of leaves raked into a pile on our lawn
Gathering leaves

Earlier in the year, I mentioned that we installed a drip-feed irrigation system; this has been turned off now. However, it’s important that we disconnect it and remove the timer. Also, tidy up and manage the feeding lines in the pots.

The last ongoing task I will mention is cutting the lawn and raking up the fallen leaves.

A few more autumn tasks in the garden

It’s almost never-ending

Just when you thought it was time to kick back, relax and have a flick through the latest issue of your Gardeners World magazine, here are a few more Autumn tasks for your garden.

  • If you have room in your garden, build a log pile at the back of your borders or along a fence to ensure a place for wildlife to shelter.
  • Clean out bird feeders.
  • Disconnect your irrigation system.
  • Plant up pots for winter colour.
  • Place your delicate pots undercover to protect them from frost.
  • You may wish to divide some of your plants which are no longer flowering. This can be done in either Autumn or Spring.

I’m sure there is a lot more to be done, but I think this will keep us going for the time being.

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