Jackie Power’s gardening column, on how to prepare for Autumn

News Desk (08 September, 2016) Columnists

Also read why hops are Jackie's plant of the month

735Jackie Power

 

Each season lasts about three months, although there is usually a week or two of overlap as the new weather system becomes established.

September is the start of autumn; it usually remains fine and calm before the weather changes gear. What is always a surprise is how quickly the nights are drawing in as we leave the summer months behind.

September and May are the most productive and spectacular months in the gardening calendar. May sees an explosion of growth with flowering trees, plants and bulbs at the start of the growing season. September brings harvest time with a gradual die back of the annuals and perennials. This overlap means summer perennials are still flowering as seasonal plants such as Autumn crocus, Sedum, Sunflowers and Passiflora come into bloom; fruits are ready to pick, colourful foliage appears as leaves slowly begin to change. September is a beautiful time of year to savour and enjoy, even if the weather turns quickly – which it often does!

Tasks for the month include carrying out repairs to the lawn; usually straight forward requiring grass seed to be sown on bare or worn patches – loosen soil first to ensure that the seeds can be lightly covered and water well. Sow seeds thickly as the birds may be attracted to these areas – but even if they eat some seeds, enough should remain to germinate and grow.

Take cuttings of evergreen shrubs such as Clematis armandii, Choisya, Californian lilac, Fuchsias and Hydrangeas – this will increase stock and any winter damaged plants can be quickly replaced.   Divide the established border perennials to ensure healthy, strong plants. Start planting Daffodil and Hyacinth bulbs either in the garden or containers and window boxes.

Plant of the month: Hops (Humulus lupulus). An astonishing perennial climber that knows how to scale heights – it can easily reach 6m or more and is invasive if not kept under control. Hop bines can be trained along fences, walls and trellis – the wild birds love hiding amongst the large coarse leaves, which are rough to the touch. Hops produce  ‘fruits’ called strobiles, these are pale green, delicate and cone shaped appearing in late August, ripening through September. These ‘fruits’ have a pungent aroma and are used as bitter flavouring in most types of beer. Hops are also used in herbal medicine, principally as a sedative but also as a digestive (always seek advice from a professional before using plants medicinally).

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