It provides more nutrients for the soil and allows the soil to retain more moisture (or drains better if you have clay! This will help the plants thrive next year.
Furthermore, it makes your garden look aesthetically more pleasing and it will suppress any weeds that may appear!
My favourite mulches to use are:
Old wood chips
Finely chopped leaves (leaf mould)
Manure (around roses)
Some of these mulches can be made at home easily; I promote the use of these mulches as it is cheaper and better for the garden (and your bank account!). Mowing the lawn all summer will generate a lot of grass clippings. Designate a discrete area in the garden to store these and it will be invaluable throughout the next autumn/spring. They can be added to the compost heap as well! Throughout autumn, rake up the leaves that fall and run the mower over the pile. Leaves rot faster when they are smaller. Put these with the compost or own area also; let it rot down for a year.
Manure is the best mulch for roses. It will help prevent black spot and it will encourage large growth/flowering the next year.
Mulches don’t have to be organic, there’s a wide range of plastic or rubber mulch that will suppress weeds better than organic mulches but they don’t increase the health of the soil and can become expensive.
It’s almost planting time for spring bulbs! I always get asked by clients to plant numerous different types of daffodils, alliums, hyacinths and tulips.
The flowers will bloom energetically throughout spring, making your garden look wonderful. The bulbs can be planted straight into the ground or into containers. Using containers will prevent the bulbs from naturally spreading and they will have to be divided manually in autumn to encourage flowering each year.
Top 5 varieties that you wouldn’t normally choose but look fantastic:
Tulip – ‘La Belle Epoque’
Tulip – ‘Green Star’
Daffodil – ‘Minnow’ (it’s scented!)
Allium – ‘Unifolium’
Allium – ‘Oreophilum’
If planting into the ground, loosen the soil to the correct depth, add bulb fertiliser and place the bulb. Cover the bulb with soil and mulch with a layer of compost. If your soil is clay-like, add some horticultural grit beneath the bulb (for it to sit on!). This will prevent rot and it will break up the soil, allowing the bulb to spread its roots.
Garlic is one of the best vegetables to plant in autumn as it doesn’t need much attention. Garlic grows very easily in well drained soil; however, there is a constant need for weeding. Garlic has small, thin leaves that don’t provide enough coverage to stop weeds from growing. Weeds will absorb any nutrients that you intended for the garlic bulb which will rapidly decrease the growth and size of the garlic bulb.
Before planting your cloves it’s a good idea to cover the area you’re using with organic matter such as compost or manure; this will improve the soils structure, moisture retention and help provide nutrients. I used home-made compost, roughly 3 shovels per every 1m squared; then carefully dig it in to the top inch of the existing soil.
Always buy garlic bulbs from garden centres/online stores. Never use supermarket bulbs, the particular garlic variety might not grow in this climate, the variety could also carry diseases/viruses. I purchased my garlic bulbs from an online store, take a look here. The pack contained four different varieties of autumn planting garlic including: Early Purple Wight, Lautrec Wight, Elephant garlic (the massive cloves!!) and Provence Wight.
When planting, pull the bulb apart separating any cloves, then dig them in rows. The cloves need to be spaced 6 inches apart and the rows need to be 12 inches apart, this will ensure that each vegetable gets the maximum space to develop. The bulb needs to be placed root down, thinnest part of the clove pointing to the sky; the tip should be left showing and not covered in soil.
Harvest the garlic in mid-summer when the foliage has yellowed and started to die off! Remember that garlic takes a long time to grow so that area of vegetable patch/allotment won’t be free for spring planting for vegetables such as lettuce, spring onions and potatoes.
Pumpkins are relatively easy to grow however once the fruit appear they need a fair amount of attention.
They propagate easily from seed; I sowed 5 pumpkin seeds in April this year. It was late as I felt it was too cold to sow them any earlier. I used normal potting compost and left them in the greenhouse until they established into little pumpkin plants!
Prior to planting, I dug a hole three times the size of the plant in the vegetable patch and filled that with fresh compost from the bin and then refilled the hole after.
The plants were ready for planting in June so I reopened the hole I had dug previously and planted the pumpkins. I placed a bit more compost in some of the holes as the pumpkins will need it.
After that I fed them once a week with Tomatorite and watered them when it was especially dry.
Once the fruit appeared I watered the plants for longer each time, but didn’t over water and drown them. The plants need this extra water for energy to produce larger fruit and to keep the fruit from rotting off.
I placed straw underneath the fruits when they became too heavy for the plant to support them; this lifted them off the ground and prevented the fruits from rotting.
I also rotated the pumpkins once every few days; this ensured that the pumpkin ripened evenly, that the skin was smooth and it wasn’t rotting underneath.
I harvested my pumpkins in late October, this was perfect timing for halloween. There were 4 pumpkins in total; I gave 2 away and made the last 2 into pumpkin soup!
I also grew pumpkins at a clients, we grew 2 together; they were also fantastic.
At the beginning of the summer we decided that we should start a vegetable patch in the garden. With the space and the experience of Eleanor Owens on side, we started to plan our patch.
There is something very appealing about becoming self- sustainable – cooking with ingredients that you have watched and nurtured from seed. Lovely.
We decided to build two 1.5m x 2m raised beds made from timber. After marking out the space, we had to remove the turf. My goodness was that hard work. I have to admit I left most of that to Eleanor… We then had to order the timber. That was also an experience. When we went to the timber merchant we entered a very male dominated environment that wasn’t particularly accommodating – but I will save my feminist rant for another time.
After putting together the structure and filling the bed with compost, we began planning what to plant. I wanted a mixture of flowers and vegetables that would make our vegetable patch both aesthetically pleasing and bee friendly.
As we ended up planting quite late in the season, we managed to grow runner beans, sweet peas, pumpkins, courgettes, carrots, parsnips and lettuce.
Next year we are planning to build a living arch between the beds, and grow a more diverse range of produce.
So far I have really enjoyed it. It’s very therapeutic to garden and there was a real sense of achievement for us. In the process I have learnt a lot about growing your own veg and how to use power tools!