What a year of contrasts in the garden! Earlier in the year it seemed that winter would never end with rain and cold temperatures right into spring. Then along came a change in the seasons which brought record breaking hot and dry weather, in June and early July there was hardly any rain at all. None of this was new and gardeners and nature, over the years, have learned to adapt to the vagaries in the weather.
Having had unusual, but not unknown extremes of weather this year we must remember winter is not too far away so we need to prepare ourselves, which is a bit like planning for Brexit. We know it is likely to be stormy and cold, but with a bit of planning we can get things ready for the spring.
The first frosts are likely soon, so annuals and vegetables, if finished, that are frost sensitive should be taken up. Shrubs can be pruned up to early October but avoid pruning back after that as new growth is likely to emerge when the frost are at their worst and damage the buds. Better to leave until March time. Raspberries pruned in February will then be dormant and will start to shoot from under the ground as the warmer weather comes along.
It is a good idea to clear and dig over ground in October before it becomes too cold and hard and it is then ready for replanting in the spring. October is also the time to get broad beans and overwintering varieties of peas sown, autumn sets of onions can be planted as can rhubarb crowns and strawberries.
If you are fortunate enough to have a greenhouse or shed then don’t forget to give it a good clean out before the really cold weather arrives. Pots can be cleaned by rinsing in a very dilute mixture of disinfectant in a large bucket or wheelbarrow. Garden tools should be wiped down to get rid of any soil and sprayed with oil before putting away. Now is also a good time to sharpen blades ready for next year and if you have a lawn mower that needs sharpening or maintenance it is better to do in now than in the spring.
Dahlias can be left in the ground and covered with mulch, but you risk losing them to slugs and late frosts. Better to cut them down in October and dig them up. The corms should be lightly cleaned of soil then stored in your garage or shed in vermiculite or scrunched up newspaper to protect from frost. They will then be ready to put back in in the spring. Potatoes in sacks will need to be checked every now and then to make sure none are rotting as one rotten potato will quickly damage the others.
With a bit of preparation we can get ready for whatever the winter brings - even if the effect of Brexit is less certain.