October in the Garden: Time for some R&R October 07, 2016 11:11
At this time of year, some of my most favourite gardening related words start popping up in conversation. Mulch. Compost. Scarify. Ooh lovely. As well as providing a helpful list of jobs to do in the garden, I find myself saying them in various accents / voice imitations for kicks and giggles. Honestly. Get. It. Together.
Anyway, for plants and flowers (and some of us delicate, human flowers), October marks the start of rest and rejuvenation. While it is still quite warm here in our part of Kent, the temperatures are showing signs of dropping. Mornings are crisp. Evenings are nippy. I've started to get that nervous twitch about 'frost'. This weekend, I'll start lifting half hardy plants such as dahlias, fushias and geraniums and relocate them. I've not got many of these type of plants but what I do have, I want to look after. Ideally they need to move to a warmer, frost free part of the garden or glasshouse (or, my case, form in an orderly line along the back door and windows... raised eyebrows and tuts are about to emerge from husband any day now).
My fave, Hostas, can be split and spread around the garden, placed into pots or swapped and shared with friends. A good tip is to generously soak the clump whilst still in the ground first. This will not only make the task physically much easier but also ensure more of the fibrous parts of the root system will remain intact. Then, once you’ve divided your plant, give it a warm welcome to its new home, with compost and water.
While your tender plants get a rest over winter, your garden can enjoy a little rejuvenation. I tend to let my leaves fall and stay on the beds and borders, letting all their goodness seep slowly into the ground and allow them to provide a little layer of extra protection for the winter months. However, I do clear away the ones from the lawn as they kill off the grass. These head straight into my home made 'pink pallet' composter. You should have seen my Dad's face when I presented a few pink painted pallets left over from an event last year as the 'materials' for yet another DIY job. "You want a pink one?" Yes, I do. I love it.
October is an ideal time to start to introduce new plants, bushes and trees to your garden. The soil is still relatively warm and new plants can make themselves comfortable before winter sets in. I've had a honey locust tree or, if we are talking technical, Gleditsia triacanthos f. inermis 'Sunburst' in a pot over the last 18 months. I'm keen to get it in the ground, right in the middle of a bed, to add height and interest. The plan is to grade the plants around it in terms of height. I'd like to say I thought of this idea all by myself but alas, I did not. A trip to Parham House in Sussex in the summer gave me this idea. They have a big long sweep of a border flanking either side of a grass walkway. Peppered throughout are the delicate, golden leaves of Gleditsia trees. It is not always easy to take ideas from a big country garden and apply to your own small space. But I reckon I can pull this off. Gleditsia are small, tough, deciduous little trees. They can grow up to 12 metres but given the rate of growth for my tree, I'm thinking this will take a lifetime. It seems cruel to keep this lovely tree in a pot for too long. I bought it because I loved it, then got it home and looked around the garden wondering what to do with it. I'm hoping the idea at Parham will work just as well for me.
It has been so dry this summer that my planting up will include a good dose of water. I'll dig the hole for the tree first, then flood with water. Once that has drained away, I'll add my lovely Gled to the spot, and backfill with a mix of compost and soil. I've got a stake at the ready to give it a little support from any windy weather and I'll give it another good watering once firmed in. Other than that, it is feet up time this weekend. The veg patch is going to get an overall in a week or so. But there is a definite 'wind down' mood in the air. Time to start plotting and planning for Spring.