Leaf mould, last pickings & 'spring bulb lasagne'
Updated: Mar 1
Here at the Garden Gate there’s a typically fresh autumnal chill in the air. As always, it's accompanied by that familiar slightly pungent aroma of the leaves beginning to decay. When they start to fall it’s useful to rake them up to maintain appearances and stop them spoiling the grass. Otherwise, simply collect them with the lawn mower whilst making the final cuts of the year. Remember to put them in a separate leaf mould compost bin, or tie them up loosely in black sacks that can be punctured with a garden fork and left stacked somewhere out of sight to break down for a couple of years. By which time you'll have one of the very best mulches to put back onto your beds and feed your plants.
Gradually darker evenings signal that time in the garden is once again becoming that bit more precious. So it’s important to make the most of the sun’s softer, golden light as it beautifully illuminates the last days of late season flowers. Vigilant dead-heading of faded blooms on the likes of cannas, cosmos and dahlias and a high potash feed for pots and containers will help them last for as long as possible until the frosts. In the vegetable patch, as the once steady supply of crops comes to an end it’s still a treat to make the most of the last beans, courgettes, potatoes and tomatoes. It’s also time to pick apples and pears, by gently twisting them away from their branch as soon as they’re ripe.
The main job to really be getting on with is ordering spring bulbs, and especially in the case of tulips deciding which colours and styles you're going to choose from the array on offer. Daffodils, crocuses and muscari can be planted as soon the rain arrives to make the ground soft and workable again, about two to three times their own depth. However, hold back on tulips until November, so the cold weather can eradicate diseases present in the soil that may infect them. If you’re planting in containers, remember that you can really squeeze in your tulips so that they’re almost touching to give maximum impact when they flower. Another trick is to create a ‘bulb lasagne’, by planting them a bit deeper and covering them with compost before adding a layer of hyacinths, and then adding some more compost and a layer of crocuses, before covering those too with a final layer of compost. This will create a staggered flowering sequence in the spring and offers the opportunity to experiment with endless possibilities. Just remember to plant the earliest flowering bulbs nearest to the top.