Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Garden and Lawn Maintenance in the Autumn

Autumn is main seasons for lawn maintenance. Rake out the ‘thatch‘ or dead grass and moss that has accumulated over the mowing season using a wire rake or lawn rake from the tool hire shop. To save money, you could hire it and share the use and cost with several friends. Spike compacted areas with a fork; push the spikes into the ground rocking it backwards and forwards to loosen the soil. In severe cases you may need to ‘hollow tine‘, these too can be hired or there are smaller versions as hand tools which are like a large apple corers and then brush in top dressing. Repair worn patches, with seed and feed with autumn lawn fertiliser.

Some enthuse about the delights of spring, others prefer summer, but one of my favourite times is when late summer herbaceous plants come into flower, and the cornerstone of the display are the Asters. They flourish in sunshine or some shade and need soil that’s moisture retentive, even in dry summers, so where necessary, dig in plenty of organic matter before planting. To keep them vigorous and healthy, ‘Michaelmas Daisies’ should be divided every two or three years in spring. Cultivars of Aster x novi-belgii are particularly prone to ‘Powdery Mildew‘ a grey dusty fungus that coats the upper leaf surfaces if this appears, spray with a fungicide like Bio Supercarb and dispose of the stems and foliage at the end of the season – but not on the compost heap! There are masses of colours to choose from in shades of violet, purple and white even the cerise pink of Aster novae-angliae ‘Andenken and Alma Potschke‘, the soft shell pink ‘Harringtons Pink‘ and Aster amellus ‘King George‘ an old purple-blue cultivar with a fabulously long flowering season from July until mid autumn but one of the best and possibly my favourite, is the hybrid, Aster x frikartii ‘Monch‘ with flowers of stunning rich, lavender-blue that are produced from July right through to October! If you want to see the glory of the Asters in early autumn, with some useful planting ideas too, why not treat yourself and visit the National Collection at Upton House in Warwickshire? Don’t forget autumn flowering bulbs too, like the pink trumpets of Amaryllis belladonna, candy blooms of Nerine bowdenii and Zephyranthes candida with its wonderful white flowers which I grow in free draining soil at the base of a south facing wall.

Your summer bedding should still look good so keep on feeding, watering and deadheading as until they start to deteriorate. If frost is forecast later in the month protect your plants with several layers of horticultural fleece or newspaper to prolong the display. Depending on where in the country you are, the firsts frosts can strike anytime in September, (what a dreadful thought!) though they’re not often as hard as those form November onwards, they can still signal the end for tender plants. You’ll know from past experience when to bring your tender plants like Osteospermums and Agyranthemums under cover; just listen to the weather forecast and don’t get caught out! Throw away any that are poor quality and take cuttings too as an insurance in case the parent plants don’t survive – you can always give extras away to friends.