At Longmeadow, Monty Don tackles autumn lawn maintenance tasks and plants up pots of diminutive bulbs for exquisite blooms early next spring. Carol Klein is looking at burnets, also known as sanguisorba. This is an underrated meadow plant which is becoming a big hit in British gardens. Carol also meets a man who has dedicated himself to a North American prairie favourite, the echinacea. Back at Longmeadow, Monty uses wildflowers in his solution for planting up the steep banks of his new meadow mound.
Autumn lawn care
September is a great time for vigorous lawn maintenance tasks. The soil is moist but still warm so grass roots are growing well and crowns are sending up new shoots (tillering), allowing the turf to recover easily.
Before starting work, make sure your grass is cut as you may not be able to mow it again for a few weeks. Don’t cut it too low – the grass blades need some length in order to photosynthesise sufficiently in low autumn light.
Next you need to scarify your lawn; this means raking it firmly to remove moss and other debris which will have built up. Removing this thatch allows air and moisture to get into the grass sward, reducing the risk of fungal problems. Mechanical scarifiers are available but a spring tine rake like Monty uses works just as well.
If your soil is compacted, aeration is a good idea as this improves drainage and enables air and moisture to reach down to the plants’ roots. On a light soil, spiking should be sufficient. This can be done with a fork or mechanical aerator with solid tines attached. If you use a fork, ensure you insert it deeply and wiggle it about to open up the natural fissures in the soil.
If your soil is heavy clay, like at Longmeadow, it’s worth using hollow tines when you aerate as these remove whole plugs of soil. Some manual aerators remove plugs but these can be heavy to use so you may decide to hire a mechanical aerator fitted with hollow tines instead. These are widely available from about £50 per day.
However you aerate, finish by brushing sharp sand into the holes to help keep them open for longer, encouraging strong grass root growth which will lead to a great lawn next year.
Garden visited: Avondale Nursery (Sanguisorba)
Garden visited: Meadow Farm (Echinacea)
Jobs for the weekend: strip outer leaves from chicory
Chicory is one of my favourite vegetables. It spends all summer developing strong roots which are fed by lush foliage. However, this foliage is not what we eat. In autumn the root produces new leaves which are deliciously bitter sweet. So from now on you can start to clear away the outer summer foliage as it rots to let light and air into the new growth.
Jobs for the weekend: take box cuttings
September is the perfect time to take box cuttings. Look for nice, straight new growth at least 15cm long. You can pot them up in containers of compost but they'll also work well outside. Add sharp sand or grit to the soil to improve drainage. Strip off the lower leaves and line them out in rows so that you can weed them easily next year. They should be rooted and ready to move next autumn.
Jobs for the weekend: lightly trim bush roses
At this time of year bush roses can be lightly trimmed back to avoid them being damaged by autumn winds. Simply take shears or secateurs and trim back the tops of the tallest stems. Then in early spring more major pruning can be done if necessary.
|Series Editor||Liz Rumbold|