Great British rake off

If you want the strongest, the fittest, the best sweet peas possible, you sow the hard-coated seeds in October, wait for them to germinate and eventually turn into healthy young plants to be planted out in early spring.


So that’s one of the most important – and enjoyable – jobs to do this month, a month which many people seem to believe marks the end of the gardening year.

But there’s no time to relax, there are still many things to do before winter drives indoors all but the hardiest of gardeners.

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So, start with the chore of all chores – clearing up the falling leaves. Rake them up, vacuum them up, even pick them up by hand. But don’t just dump them. Most leaves will compost relatively easily, so pile them up and turn them into leaf mould.

Unfortunately, leaves will continue to fall for several weeks, so clearing them up can become a time-consuming and repetitive job which only the committed will continue to do.

Clearing up the garden is something which should eventually become as accepted as an annual flu jab – just get it over with without any fuss.

Tidying up is a similar occupation in autumn. Trim any overgrown hedges, particularly evergreens, divide overgrown perennials and replant healthy offshoots, clear any remaining annuals and dig over empty beds and borders.

There is still time to do a bit of planting – spring-flowering tulips, for instance, and lilies, plus now is the ideal time to plant shrubs and trees. The soil is still warm and moist – ideal conditions for encouraging fresh root growth.

If you’re lucky enough to have a rhubarb patch, lift and divide any clumps that are past their best.

And lift, clean and store dahlias and gladioli.

Clean the pond (take out the pump and store it indoors for winter), scrape or hose off mould on paths, wash and disinfect dirty plant pots and containers, clean greenhouse glass. If you intend to overwinter tender plants in the greenhouse, insulate it to make sure the temperature never drops below freezing.

Lawns can be repaired with turf (a bit late to sow seed and expect it to germinate) and there may be the chance to cut the grass one last time before winter. Before that, scarify and aerate, and repair the edges. Then clean the mower and put it away for winter – first thanking it for all its hard work this summer.