Life in a Cumbrian Village


Gardening – September – October

A few weeks ago I witnessed a riot on the Isle of Tiree, a riot of colour in the form of a flower bed, which considering the exposure and open situation up there is pretty good going. The climate on Tiree is warmer than here in Cumbria so they can grow plants which we would consider soft. Hebes and hardy fuchsias are very common, but also ceanothus and escallonias all of which I lost last winter in the severe frosts. I was amazed to see a succulent ground covering creeper growing over a wall, I have only ever seen the same creeper growing in the south of France before, and usually in flower, with lovely bright pink flowers. So, the risk of severe frost on Tiree must be rare.

The summer bedding is now beginning to look tired and getting leggy, so I am pulling them out and will be planting winter pansies, primulas and wallflowers soon. Any tubs or containers can soon be emptied out, cleaned and filled with new compost. It is worth changing the compost in pots and tubs as vine weevils may be lurking in there just waiting for their next juicy meal of nice new plant roots. The adults are all female, reproducing by pathogenesis (ie. they don’t need a mate).

A similar pest to the vine weevil is the deadly leather jacket, which is the grub stage of the daddy long legs. Quite a few customers recently, have come in wondering why they have flocks of starlings on their lawn, merrily pecking away. The birds are eating the leather jackets which, while hidden in the soil surface are actually eating away at the grass roots too. Hence the grass begins to look brown and comes off in loose clumps. There are pesticides available which watered onto the lawn will prevent this happening.

Good husbandry and maintenance of the lawn will also help to prevent the leather jackets taking hold. Spiking the grass with a fork to allow aeration, regular feeding with lawn food, and not cutting too short in dry periods will keep the lawn looking healthy. In a few months time, a light dressing of garden lime applied to the lawn will also keep down the moss.

There is a great national movement back towards growing our own vegetables. Allotments have become increasingly popular and with over 86,000 people in the UK  on allotment waiting lists, people are looking to other ways of obtaining a plot on which to grow. The recently new idea of land share is becoming very attractive and has been promoted to a great extent by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The basic idea is someone with a large garden who hasn’t time to look after it or is no longer able to can give part of the garden over to someone who can and is keen to do so. Often someone who has no garden or lives in a flat and is keen to grow their own vegetables can take up the offer of using the other persons ground. The only condition is that any produce is shared between the two parties.

I have just pruned back the peach tree in the garden after picking off the last of the large juicy fruits. This summer has been the best ever for yield, with up to 30 peaches on the tree. The plum tree, a Victoria, has also been laden and I have just pruned it back as well. All plums and pears need to be pruned in the summer not in the winter, to prevent silver leaf disease.

As usual the apple Lord Lambourne is heaving with fruit.

Just for good measure I have pruned back the gooseberry bush and blackcurrants as they were getting overgrown and leggy. It is a good time to do them now before the winter. You can put a mulch of well-rotted manure or grass clippings down around the base to protect them from frost, and this will keep them fed over the winter.

When it gets to September and October it is time to start thinking about tidying the garden up for winter. Herbaceous plants can be split up or divided now, and a smaller clump replanted.

The large growing blue Iris, which grows underneath the bird table has gone mad in recent  years, so this weekend it was dug up and I replanted a much smaller piece back in its place. Before digging the clumps up I cut all the leaves off first.

Lots of different herbaceous plants can be divided up now including hostas, phlox, loosestrife, astilbes, chrysanthemums, achilleas, red hot pokers and geraniums just to mention a few.

There are still a lot of butterflies about and the sedum, Autumn Joy, in the garden is attracting most of them. The sedum is a really good late summer early autumn plant, with large bronze/orange flowers, perfectly hardy even up here. The butterflies have also been busy on all the buddleia plants. This year I have been selling a miniature buddleia which only grows to 60cm or 2 feet high, ideal for growing in a pot or planter outside.

There is still plenty of time to sow grass seed, either mixed with compost for patching or a completely new lawn. Remember that a seed mix with rye grass will be harder wearing than one without rye. I would apply a dressing of growmore just before sowing. This will give the grass seedlings some nutrients, and help the lawn along.


Happy Gardening – John Treeby

Tarn Road Nurseries – Brampton