Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Cheer up, it’s autumn!

Diary October 2014

I’ve always loved gladioli; cheerful, undemanding and appealing, they were among the first things I planted as a child and I still have a soft spot for them today. Over the years they have been stalwarts of allotment and village flower shows, yet despite falling from fashion in the garden, breeders continue to produce new varieties. Among the brightest are the Flevo series, introduced by Dutch breeder M. Snoek. I’ve grown them through grasses like Stipa tenuissima to interesting effect but this year planted some for late summer/early autumn colour, to finish the season with a bang! They take between 70-120 days to flower depending on the weather, so it is easy to judge when to plant. With a little support from canes and string, they shine in pots or containers. About to flower and flowering are Flevo Disco (rosy purple with yellow splashes) Flevo Cool (lilac and cream) and Flevo Mambo, which as the image shows, is a gorgeous plant. As a group they are well worth revisiting – I am sure that Dame Edna and Morrissey would approve!

Away from Showbiz, it is planting time in the vegetable plot. September was the driest for many a year, the advantage is that the soil will be warm to help rapid germination of winter lettuce, Lamb’s Lettuce and overwintering broad beans like ‘The Sutton’ but remember to water them regularly. Garlic can be planted too; break the bulbs into cloves then plant 2.5-10cm deep and 18cm apart in an open sunny site on soil that has been improved with organic matter. If drainage is a problem they can be planted on ridges or in 3” pots then transplanted in February or early March next year, especially if it is damp and cold.
Dry weather has delayed lawn maintenance, too. There is still plenty of time to scarify, aerate, feed and top dress (in that order) and over-sow any bare patches early in the month before temperatures drop.

It is also a good opportunity to clean the greenhouse and remove the tomato plants – any unripened fruit can be put into a paper bag with a ripe banana, or into the fruit bowl, the ethylene from ripe fruit will ripen the tomatoes or just put them in a sunny, frost free place. Clear away all plant debris and weeds (if there are any!) then bubble wrap your greenhouse and bring in Canna’s and Dahlias once the foliage has blackened after the first frosts.

The foliage of squashes and pumpkins has now died back – it’s been bad for powdery mildew again this year, so all of the leaves and stems will be disposed of away from the garden, in the green recycling bin. They need drying either under a cloche or in the greenhouse before storing, for two or three weeks so the skin hardens, ripe fruits sound hollow when they are tapped – they can then be stored in a cool frost free place for eating, made into soup or carved into scary faces at Halloween. Boo!

Happy Gardening! Matt