1 October 2015 - 12:00am

Getting ready for winter

Now is a good time to take stock in the garden – what worked well, what didn’t, were there any gaps in the borders that need planning for more carefully? I’m heavily into succession planning so there is colour in as many places as possible all year. But it is hard to get it right all, or even most of the time, so here are some of my tips to keep your garden in good order with some colour all season next year: • Order a good number of spring bulbs: a decent show is much better that a few dotted around. I get mine from de Jager, but there are plenty of options on line and in the shops. If you have a new garden, or are not sure where to plant them, put them in pots. Next year when they have flowered you will be able to see more clearly where to put them; • Get some early spring bedding in now. It is often called winter bedding, which I think is a cheat as plants rarely do really well over the worst of the winter, pansies being the biggest culprit. In my view primrose and polyanthus are much nicer, but whatever takes your fancy! • Then think about what may follow on. You can order plug plants of loads of tender plants such as nicotania, tagetes, pelargoniums, to arrive next Spring; • Or if you like growing from seed have a browse through the seed catalogues. It’s too early to sow now in most cases, but you can start to plan; • In a spell of mild weather lift and divide any perennials that are running out of steam. Throw away the woody middles, dig in some compost and replant in generous clumps and they will flower much better for the next few years. Day lillies, hardy geranium and phlox are some of the good candidates for this treatment but most herbaceous plants enjoy being refreshed in this way. You can plant spring bulbs among them for a bit of early colour; • Sow some sweet pea seeds now. I did so this time last year and got much bigger and better plants that flowered really early and kept going for ages. You will have to keep an eye on them and keep the mice off the new shoots though, the little critters love ‘em; • When you are weeding watch out for self seeders such as forget me nots, poppies and foxgloves. They will bulk up nicely if you thin them out a bit and weed around them to give them some space, at least a hand span between each plant is best; • If we get some decent rain, give your borders a good mulch to keep the weeds down and the moisture in. I use garden compost if I’ve got it, but it can be a bit weedy so have a look out for products such as Strulch which will save you from so much weeding! Dahlias have been fabulous this year, I’ve remembered to keep dead heading them and they have flowered and flowered and flowered. Once the frost blackens the tops is the time to dig the tubers up and get them in a frost free place. Keep them dry-ish over the winter and keep an eye on them and they will do you proud again next year. You can leave them in the ground, but they are not reliably hardy and hate long, wet and cold winters. But if you run out of steam and decide to risk it, tip a load of compost or grit over their crowns and say a little prayer!