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Autumn Gardening Jobs

Lawn Care

Autumn is the time to restore and repair your lawn after a summer as a games field for the children. Start by scarifying – raking out any moss and dead grass which builds up into a thatch restricting the grass growth.

Spiking the lawn will improve drainage ready for the winter rain. Just insert a fork about 15 cm into the ground, rock it back and forth to open the hole and then repeat about 30 cm ahead. For bowling green standards, use a special hollow tined fork that removes a plug of soil.

Then brush a lawn sand across the lawn to encourage root growth and harden the grass for the coming frosts. You can buy proprietary autumn lawn feeds or make your own following this formula:

  • 20 parts builders washed sand
  • 6 parts superphosphate
  • 1 part sulphate of potash or 5 parts wood ash.

All the above by weight.

Re-seed any bare patches now.

Make Leafmould

As the leaves come down you can turn them into a really useful soil conditioner or even a base for your own potting compost. With relatively small amounts place the leaves in a black plastic sack with air holes in it. Water the leaves well then tie up the bag, putting it in some out of the way place for a year when the leaves will have turned into leafmould.

With larger amounts, insert some poles into the ground and fix chicken wire around to form a container. Just fill with leaves and leave alone. You can add extra leaves as you go but otherwise add nothing. Whatever you've heard, compost accelerators or nitrogen will not help the process. The only thing that will speed the process marginally is to shred the leaves prior to storing. Some leaf collectors do this anyway.

Dig Over Vegetable Plots

With heavy soils dig over now. Single digging where you just turn over the soil leaving it in large clods for the winter frost and thaw cycles to break up into a fine tilth for the spring will be very beneficial. Double digging where you take out a trench and then break up the soil at the base, adding compost and manure before spading the next row on the top is even more beneficial but it's not a chore you need undertake every year.

Green Manure

With light soils digging is of marginal benefit although I would still double dig every five years or so to distribute minerals, add organic matter and increase topsoil depth. Otherwise sow a green manure to hold the soil from erosion in rain and hold nutrients in the soil.

Lime Vegetable Plots

Unless you're on a chalky soil, your veg plot will benefit from the application of lime every three years or so. If in doubt, buy a soil test kit and measure the acidity of the soil The ideal for nearly all vegetables is in the range of pH 6.00 to 7.00. Potatoes prefer a slightly more acid pH of 5.5. Lime also helps to break down heavy clay soils making cultivation easier.

Ground limestone or dolomite lime which contains magnesium is best.

Greenhouse Maintenance

Check your greenhouse over carefully before winter storms arrive. Replace any cracked or broken panes of glass and check all is secure and in good order.

Once the summer crops have finished, choose a fine day and give your greenhouse a good clean. If you will be using the greenhouse over winter, insulate before winter frosts arrive.

Turn and Cover Compost Heaps

With traditional compost heaps, turn them now to ensure even decomposition. Cover open heaps with a plastic sheet or tarpaulin to avoid winter rains over-wetting and washing nutrients out of the heap.

Border Maintenance

Late autumn is the time to go through your borders. Split overgrown plants, move and plant bushes as they become dormant. Spent annuals can go onto the compost heap.

Leave a Little Mess

Leave an untidy pile of twigs, small branches and leaves at the bottom of the garden to make a home for hibernating hedgehogs and other gardeners' friends. A too tidy garden is as barren as a desert for many of our wild friends. They'll reward us in the spring when they decimate the pest population.

Copyright © John Harrison 2014

Autumn Growing

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