March’s check­list

Your Home and Garden - - Contents - Text by Carol Buck­nell. Il­lus­tra­tions by Pippa Fay.

+ A bit of titi­va­tion is usu­ally needed in autumn as sum­mer flow­ers fade. Late-flow­er­ing asters, berg­amot, cal­en­dula, chrysan­the­mums, dahlias, rud­beckia, salvia and zin­nias will do the trick and pro­vide food for bees and other pol­li­na­tors.

+ For win­ter flow­ers plant aloe, helle­borus, camel­lia, gre­vil­lea, hi­bis­cus, liri­ope, marigold, poin­set­tia, red hot pok­ers, ti­bouch­ina and vibur­num.

+ An autumn feed will keep your gar­den look­ing fab all through win­ter, so spread com­post, sheep pel­lets and other ma­nure around beds. Even easy-care plants like daylilies and di­etes will pro­duce more flow­ers if you give them a feed in spring and autumn. Di­vid­ing peren­ni­als like th­ese is also im­per­a­tive af­ter 4-5 years or they’ll grad­u­ally re­duce the num­ber of blooms.

+ Gar­dens don’t have to be static. If a shrub or young tree has been planted in the wrong place you can move it, if you choose the right time. In autumn, when the weather’s cooled and the soil isn’t so dry, is ideal. To al­low new roots to form be­fore mov­ing a tree, dig a nar­row trench (10-15cm deep) around it, close to drip line (outer edge of fo­liage canopy); do this in 3-4 stages over a month or so. Also, trim­ming back the fo­liage be­fore mov­ing a shrub or tree means it won’t have too many leaves to nour­ish once re­planted. Af­ter the move, wa­ter daily for a month then slowly ease off as roots are es­tab­lished.

An acid-based plant food will en­cour­age more blooms on win­ter-or early spring-flow­er­ing shrubs such as camel­lias, rhodo­den­dron, daphne, mag­no­lia and aza­leas.

+ Spring may seem a long way off but gar­den­ing is all about for­ward plan­ning.

Spring bulbs (freesias, daf­fodils, tulips, ix­ias, hy­acinth) are planted in autumn al­though you may need to wait a few more weeks in very hot ar­eas. How­ever, it is not too early to prep beds by dig­ging in a mix of well-rot­ted com­post, ma­nure and other or­ganic mat­ter. Add a sprin­kle of gen­eral fer­tiliser and you’re good to go with bulb plant­ing once there’s more mois­ture in the ground. + Leaf mould is very nu­tri­tious for gar­dens – and cheap. Gather fallen leaves from the streets or parks if you don’t have de­cid­u­ous trees of your own. Spread around the root zone of plants, add to your com­post bin or throw them in a plas­tic bin liner with a few holes in the bot­tom. Within a few weeks they’ll turn into beau­ti­ful leaf mould.

+ Keep wa­ter­ing your pots, gar­den beds and hedges if the weather is still hot and dry. Ne­glect­ing your wa­ter­ing regime now can of­ten lead to plants dy­ing back in win­ter when the wet weather ar­rives and they suc­cumb to root rot.

+ An autumn clean-up keeps the gar­den healthy. Re­move dead fo­liage and flow­ers to im­prove air­flow and dis­cour­age pests and dis­eases like mildew, pas­sion­fruit hop­pers, scale and snails. Mildew and other fun­gal dis­eases thrive when days are warm and nights cool; pests will of­ten use old leaves and twigs as a win­ter hang­out.

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