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Garden and grounds maintenance throughout the year.




September

Late summer progresses into autumn

September is generally a cooler, gustier month than August and the days are noticeably shorter. While there's not as much to do in the ornamental garden at this time of the year, if you have a fruit or vegetable patch, you'll be busy reaping the rewards of harvest. It's also time to get out and start planting spring-flowering bulbs for next year and you can collect seeds for next summer's colour too. Make the most of the remaining warmth while you can!

Top 10 jobs this month


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Lawns

Lawn feederMowing

  1. Mow less frequently during autumn, and raise the height of cut as the growth rate of the grass slows down. This will help the lawn to withstand the last of the warm, dry weather, and also keep it resistant to treading as the wet weather arrives.


Feeding

  1. You can harden your lawn up for winter by applying an autumn lawn feed, which is high in potassium. Do this after scarifying and aerating but before applying a top dressing. Do not give summer feeds that are high in nitrogen as this will only result in weak, soft growth, which will be prone to disease in the autumn weather.


Soil improvement

  1. Loam and sand top dressings are usually applied at a rate of 2kg per sq m (4.5lb per sq yd), working them into the lawn with a stiff brush or the back of a garden rake. If the proprietary product you use has specific application instructions, then do follow these closely.


New lawns

  1. This is an ideal time of year to create new lawns from turf or seed.


Troubleshooting

  1. Rectify summer damage by repairing a patchy lawn with turf or seed.

    This month is your last chance to use a lawn weedkillers to control perennial weeds such as daises and buttercups.

    Any brown patches caused by drought will quickly green up by themselves when the rain comes and the temperatures fall - usually towards the end of the month.

    Good autumn lawn care will do much towards solving patches caused by problems such as fungi (e.g. fairy rings), moss and weeds. These problems usually develop on lawns that are already weakened by poor conditions - waterlogging, drought and compaction, for example.


Troubleshooting

  1. Browning of the lawn is very common at this time of year. Don’t water the grass unless absolutely necessary. It will green up when the autumn rains arrive.

    Browning can be partially prevented next year by ensuring that the lawn is well scarified, aerated and drained later in the autumn, and that any soil compaction underneath is remedied before the following growing season.

    On amenity and garden lawns, discrete brown patches are usually the product of dog waste, bitch urine, spilt petrol or oil, or weedkiller and fertiliser overdosing.

    On finer turf, especially if it is underfed and frequently mown, patches can be the result of disease such as red thread (on sandy soils) and dollar spot (in damp weather). Feeding usually helps eliminate these problems.

Trees and shrubs

Shrub plantingPlanting and moving

  1. If the weather is already autumnal, you can now plant and move shrubs and trees without having to worry excessively about their survival and establishment. Shrubs planted now will get off to a flying start next spring, as they will have had all winter to settle in.


Pruning and training

  1. Give evergreen hedges a final trim to make sure they are in shape for winter. This is particularly useful for fast-growing hedges such as leylandii (x Cuprocyparis leylandii). Remember to cut hedges slightly narrower at the top than the bottom – this makes them less liable to snow damage in winter and stops the hedge from shading itself out at the base, which can lead to dead patches.


Propagation

  1. Take semi-ripe cuttings of evergreen shrubs such as CistusCeanothus and Viburnum.


Soaking a shrubGeneral maintenance

  1. Thoroughly soak drought-stressed plants and shrubs, especially newly planted ones. As the weather becomes cooler and damper, the soil will better absorb and hold any extra water you give it.

    Clear dead leaves promptly once they start to fall, as rotting leaves can be a source of disease in the garden. They are, however, useful on the compost heap and can be shredded first with a shredder or mulching mower, to help them break down quicker.


Planning ahead

  1. Collect tree and shrub seeds for sowing next spring, such as Colutea (bladder senna), LaburnumMorus (mulberry) and Sorbus (rowan).

    Order mature or large plants now for planting in October or once the rains have moistened the soil.


harmless saprophytic fungiPest and disease watch

  1. Good garden hygiene helps to prevent disease, so it is vital to throw out or destroy diseased leaves. Do not compost them or leave them lying, as this could spread the disease.

    Saprophytic fungi (i.e. living entirely on dead matter) pose no threat to living garden plants. Honey fungus may be more common in areas of woody planting, whereas harmless fungi often pop up in areas of damp lawn or on mulch.

    Honey fungus fruiting bodies will begin to appear in late September and early October, indicating possible areas of infection. However, there are many harmless fungi that appear at this time, so don't be overly alarmed.

    Powdery mildew can still be troublesome in warm, dry, Indian summer weather. Unless it is severe, it will probably clear up once the rains arrive.

Structures

The garden shedWooden structures

  1. Take advantage of remaining dry weather by painting fences, sheds and other wooden features with a preservative. Water-based ones are kinder to the environment, and many of the older oil-based products (such as creosote) no longer have approval for domestic use.

    Fix leaky shed roofs before the autumn rain comes.


Hard surfaces

  1. Clean up patios and hard surfaces to get rid of moss and algae. Doing this job now will prevent them becoming slippery during the winter.


Under glass

  1. Replace any broken glass panes in the greenhouse and also take the opportunity to check for lost glazing clips or worn putty.

    As temperatures fall, greenhouse shading paint should be removed, and any blinds lifted or removed as light levels are steadily decreasing. Don’t deprive your plants of light once the risk of overheating is over.

    Cleaning the greenhouse is best done before bringing in all your tender plants for the winter. Pests and diseases can hide in tiny nooks and crannies, only to come back to life the following spring. Hose down the structure with a forceful jet of water, and then use a safe cleaning products such as Citrox, and a non-abrasive scourer specifically recommended for cleaning glass.


Compost bins

  1. Make and repair compost bins so that they are ready for the autumn, when fallen leaves will quickly fill them.


Water-saving

  1. Install a water butt to collect water from your down-pipe, where it can be stored for use in the garden. Rainwater is particularly beneficial for watering potted ericaceous plants (e.g. rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias), and also conserves mains water, which is in short supply in several parts of the UK.


Garden furniture

  1. Clean and store away garden furniture when it is no longer in use.