The focus this month on work in the purely decorative part of the garden is on the lawn, as it Is at this time that established lawns can be repaired and generally cared for, and seed can he sown to produce new ones.
Brushing, raking with a wire rake, and spiking all help to improve the penetration of air to the turf surface and the soil beneath. The mat of dead vegetation which is likely to form during summer is removed and so, too, are pests which may have been hiding in it, and fungus diseases which can damage the grass. Worm casts are brushed off at the same time.
Spiking can be done with an ordinary garden fork, at least 3 in. deep, and at intervals of a few inches all over the lawn, but hollow-tined aerators are even better, as they remove soil instead of compressing it; a further variation is the use of slitting tines which will cut the turf and break up a vegetative mat.
This can be followed by an autumn feed with a compound lawn fertilizer high in potash and phosphate, and finally by a topdressing, made up of loam, peat and coarse sand, varying the proportions of the ingredients according to the basic soil type on which the lawn is growing. Apply this topdressing at 2-4 lb. Per sq. yd. It should be applied dry and worked in with a stiff brush. Mowing can continue, but at less frequent intervals.
For new lawns, grass seed is best sown early in the month, in the second week for the south of the country, although in the north a spring sowing is preferable. Clean, weed-free soil and the application of a pre-seeding general fertilizer ten days or so before sowing are advisable; choose a day when the soil is moist and rain is likely to follow, make sure there is a good tilth, and sow the seed evenly at 1 ½ oz. per sq. yd. Patchy sowing leads to trouble with damping off disease.
Bald parts of established lawns should be scratched up to provide some sort of seedbed and sown with a seed mixture which matches the grasses already present. Breaking edges can be remedied by cutting the turf so that a piece a foot wide and of a convenient length is removed, to include the bad edge, turned round so that the edge is inside, and the turf replaced, filling in the gap now inside the lawn with compost and grass seed.
Autumn flowering border plants come in all the flaming colours, red, orange and yellow, for instance, dahlias are magnificent, rudbeckias, heliopsis, gaillardias, the early flowering chrysanthemums, and solidagos, but purples and pinks are by no means out of the picture. There is a beautiful range of colour in the named varieties of Michaelmas daisy-‘Marie Ballard’ is a good blue, and ‘Ernest Ballard’ is an equally eye-catching crimson. Phlox, with their curious, slightly stuffy fragrance, the purple coneflower (echinacea), the magenta sedums, particularly the variety ‘Brilliant’, and liatris species (the Kansas gayfeather) all add a splendid burst of colour to the season’s end. Autumn bulbs contributing to it will be Cyclamen neapolitanum, colchicum and autumn-flowering crocus, nerines, crocosmia and montbretia.
For early blooms in May and June next year, some of the annuals can be sown now, such as godetia, larkspur, nigella, calendula, Shirley poppies, annual scabious and coreopsis. They are sown in the open and should be well established by the time the cold weather comes. Sweet peas can also be sown now and over-wintered in a frame, for flowering in June next year or earlier. Mice can destroy them, however, so protect with small mesh wire netting.
Roses will be in bloom again, and the yellow flowered autumn clematis species, C. orientalis and C. tangutica, also C. rehderiana, tubular and cowslip scented. Rambler roses are pruned this month, cutting the flowered canes out completely and tying the new ones of this season in to take their place. Shrubs in flower are ceanothus, caryopteris, ceratostigma, hibiscus, perowskia, and Hamamehs virginiana, the witch hazel which is used to supply that refreshing substance. More heathers (calluna and daboecia) will be in flower, and all the berrying kinds of shrubs will be changing the colour of their fruit to red, orange, yellow, purple, blue and white.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood can still be taken and put in a cold frame; layers can be brought down to earth and encouraged to root, and planting of evergreen shrubs can be undertaken. Evergreen hedges are clipped now, and the fast growing kinds given their final trimming. Mildew on all sorts of plants should be watched for and sprayed against where necessary. Shrubs ordered now are not likely to arrive much before Christmas.
Frosts are possible before the end of the month, so plants which may have to be taken into the greenhouse are chrysanthemums, azaleas, carnations, fuchsias, heliotropes and pelargoniums, cyclamen and Christmas cactus. Freesias also can go in at the end of the month and, although they would survive a light frost, it would slow up flowering.
Greenhouse tomatoes should be cleared of their remaining fruit, and pulled out, and sweet peas will also be finished. The shading should be cleaned off the glass and the inside of the greenhouse washed down and sterilized if possible, removing the plants temporarily to do this. Watering can be reduced and many pot plants can be gradually dried off. Cuttings of zonal pelargoniums can be taken and rooted now. Seeds can be sown to flower in late winter and spring, such as the annuals, schizanthus and salpiglossis.
Autumn-fruiting raspberries will be cropping so, too, will strawberries under cloches, and blackberries. Summer pruning of the soft fruit can be finished early this month, and strawberry runners may be planted.
Apple and pear picking will be in full swing; both are ready to pick if the stalk detaches easily when the fruit is lifted gently up in the palm of the hand. Pears to be stored should be picked just as the skin begins to turn yellow round the stalk but while the body of the fruit is still green, and then placed in single layers in a coolish room in the dark. The atmosphere should not be dry, otherwise they shrivel. Sometimes with late pears picking should be delayed until the weather deteriorates, but they must be picked then, even if the stalk has to be pulled quite hard to detach it. Apples will keep well in the same conditions, or can be put four or five in a polythene bag, with the opening closed, using fruit which is not injured and without signs of disease. Put in a dark, cool place, it will keep well, preserved in its own gases given off as maturing continues.
This time of the year is both an ending and beginning for the vegetable garden; potatoes, beetroot, carrots, turnip and celeriac are lifted for storing, and onions are finally cleaned and hung up. Blanching of celery and endive should continue. Aubergines and peppers will be in full cropping. Runner beans, cabbage and lettuce, peas, cucumbers, marrows and courgettes will be coming to an end. Once they have all been finished, the remains of the plants should be cleared away, and the ground cleaned of weeds. It is at this time that weeds seem to take on a new lease of life, and grow up behind one’s back, just as the season seems to be over. If not cleaned off now, by the spring they will have gained control of the garden.