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Is your garden ready for winter?

With us just past the official start of autumn, signs of change in our gardens are becoming all too apparent. How can you best prepare for the next season?

With the weather turning cooler and wetter and our gardens subtly changing in appearance every day, talk on the Which? Gardening Facebook group has turned to preparing for autumn.

With these discussions in mind, I took to Facebook live to dish out some much needed advice for avid gardeners.

Unlike summer – which is often filled with a lot of watering and maintenance – the transition of autumn can often be a quieter time in our gardens, so what gardening activities can you be getting on with in September?

Plant ahead

As with gardening in all seasons, autumn’s an important time to be planning ahead: so for me, this time of year’s a perfect moment to start buying and planting your bulbs for next spring.

You’ll find garden centres right now will have the best variety of bulbs, so you can really pick and choose what you like before they run out.

You don’t need to plant them straight away, but the sooner the better with most bulbs.

Our recent testing found that you can normally get away with planting bulbs as late as November or December, although the later planting ones tend to give shorter plants with flowers that last less long.

Sowing seeds

My guest on the Facebook live, Guy Barter, Chief Horticulturalist at the RHS, had advice for anyone growing vegetables in their garden:

“Although I’m pretty fed up with my allotment after a summer of hard watering, this time of year is a really good time to start some food crops.

“So this morning I bought some onion sets. You put these in the ground now and with any luck harvest them in June or July.

“I also sow seeds at this time of year: spinach and some lettuces. The lettuce I’ll sow is called ‘Winter Density’, which is particularly pleasant and tasty and will be ready to eat by April.”

Harvest festival

Now’s a good time to be looking at your pumpkins and squash – a lot of them will be just about ready to harvest.

You can check by just giving them a knock with your knuckle. When they’re ready they’ll give a much more hollow sound; as opposed to a solid sound when they’re unripe.

After you’ve cut them from the plant, you’ll need to leave them outside for a couple of days; then transfer them to a greenhouse if you have one for about a week; and then you can put them somewhere dry and cool in your house.

Remember though, it’s the pumpkins that will go off first, so use those before you use the squash.

Heat hangover

We’ve had a really warm summer. It’s been almost wall-to-wall non-stop sunshine. And that’s both good and bad news for gardeners.

Some plants have absolutely thrived in this hot weather: think of the ones that like warmer, more mediterranean type conditions.

My lawn though on the other hand, is looking desperate. It’s so dry, i’m afraid I’m going to have to re-sow it.

First, I’ll need to get out all the weeds, then fork it over, put bit of fertiliser on there, something like Growmore, and then I’ll re-sow it with one of our Best Buy grass seeds. And then hopefully it should start sprouting before the cold weather, giving it a head start on next spring.

What are you doing in the garden at this time of year? Or are you just taking a well-deserved break in your garden after all that watering in the summer? Do you have any tips for autumn gardening?

What's your favourite season to be out and about in the garden?
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Comments
Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
24 September 2018

Facebook Which? Gardening 1813 members. Is this restricted to Which? Gardening subscribers?

Guest

Morning Patrick,

No, it’s open to everyone 🙂

Oscar

Guest

I went to this topic, showing a 36 minute video chatty Q&A. I would much rather see this sort of material in print than have to sit through something so long without knowing whether I’d find anything relevant. Percy Thrower taught a great many gardeners of my generation, particularly, initially, those growing black and white plants.

Guest

Hi Malcolm, one of the great benefits of a Facebook live is that it allows the audience to ask direct questions to our experts. It is one of the most popular features of our WhichUK Facebook page. We’ve covered gardening a fair bit of Convo and our community tend to be quite interested in the topic, so we thought it would be great to share what else has been going on.

Guest

Are the questions answered, Alex?

Guest

The questions are fed to the experts live. They answer as many as possible within the 30 mins. Any that are not answered we try to answer in the comments after. The gardening group is especially great because it gives people the opportunity to ask questions at any point. Our experts monitor the group but, just like Convo, the community love to help each other as well!

Guest

On a similar theme… what are everyone’s favourite autumnal recipes? Personally, I’m looking forward to some pumpkin soup as soon as the shops start getting them in (soon I hope).

Guest

Certainly soup sales shoot up at this time of the year. I’m not a great lover of pumpkin in any form but there’s plenty of good autumnal fruit around now, including some spectacularly large Cox’s Orange Pippin apples which are gorgeous to eat, slightly chilled, with farmhouse cheeze. There are still copious supplies of Victoria plums [the queen of English fruit] and greengages in the shops and it’s been a good year for them. Blackberries are still coming on in the hedgerows to go with excellent Bramley cooking apples. Leeks are now back on the menu and the other vegetables. There’s no need to eat much imported produce at this time of the year, although I can’t go without a banana and an orange every day, and I am still enjoying juicy peaches while they last. Meat seems unnecessary in the early autumn. The cows are feeding on grass again after the long dry spell when they were eating straw; milk tastes sweeter again for another month or two. Yes, good season.

Guest

I’m starting to make soup to keep in the freezer. One of my favourites is mulligatawny. There are many different recipes to try.

Guest

Autumn is my favourite time of year. All Hallows’ Eve, Thanksgiving (Candian and American), Bonfire Night.

My mother is an avid gardener and as a family, we’ve lived off her produce for a long time. Anyway, seeing this post (particularly the squashes in the picture) reminded me of a family favourite recipe we make this time of year. So I thought I’d share it with everyone.

Squash and Nutmeg Soup – Serves 4.

Ingredients
>1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
>1 tablespoon unsalted butter
>60g diced onion
>90g diced carrots
>550g peeled and cubed butternut squash
>750ml vegetable stock
>salt and ground black pepper to taste
>ground nutmeg to taste
>125ml double cream (optional)

1. On medium heat warm the oil and melt the butter in a large pot. Cook and stir the onion in the butter and oil under tender and browned.
2. Mix the carrots and squash into the pot. Add vegetable stock, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, and simmer until vegetables are soft.
3. Use a blender (or food processor) to make the soup smooth. Return to the pot, and stir in the cream. Heat through (don’t boil). Serve warm. Sprinkle more nutmeg on top.

Guest

Sounds so tasty! Might try it out.

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
26 September 2018

Sounds interesting.

Note that the festivals mentioned are/is one word not two.

I am glad to note that the Canadian version is not linked to the US version which is dubiously linked to the early settlers.

Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day is an annual Canadian holiday, occurring on the second Monday in October, which celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year. Thanksgiving has been officially celebrated as an annual holiday in Canada since November 6, 1879. Wikipedia