Professional Gardener - Weather watch

Tender care - Watch the weather in October because it can be variable. Recent dry, sunny and warm spells in many parts of the country were no doubt welcomed by many working outdoors. But it is important to be ready for autumn gales, torrential rainfall and suddenly plummeting temperatures. Make sure that space is available, cleaned and ready for tender plants that need to be brought into glasshouses and conservatories. For those plants that cannot be moved, protection should be at hand. Check fleeces and hessian required for wrapping and replace any that are thinning or damaged. Frosts could occur at any time, so make sure that all dahlias and chrysanthemums are labelled and ready for lifting. Also ensure that all members of staff have appropriate winter clothing.

Start the tidy - Empty well-composted material from bays for use where required and prepare them to receive autumn debris, spent plants and prunings. Cut down yellowing stems and remove plant debris and weeds from herbaceous borders. Give a last trim to hedges where necessary. Start thinning out oxygenating plants in ponds and remove old water lily leaves.

Tied up - Where tying in is necessary, consider testing Biostretch. A soft material that is gentle on even the most delicate plants, Biostretch won the Green Award at Glee - the garden and leisure exhibition - in September. A biodegradable twine that rots into the ground after two years outdoors, the product was noted by judges as "the ideal way of supporting a plant as it grows". Surprisingly strong, the twine should be able to support large plants as well as small.

Planting - Depending on location, planting of evergreens should be completed soon. Make sure that all plans are in place for autumn planting of all other trees and shrubs. Now is also a good time to construct new heather beds or restock tired beds and borders. Prepare and plant flower beds for spring bedding and keep a check on how wallflowers and pansies are doing if growing from seed. Where soil is heavy, these should be planted out sooner rather than later.

Lawns - If you are gardening on an acid soil, and especially if it is sour and locking up nutrients, you might like to try Bio-Lime. Distributed by DJ Turfcare, it can be used as an autumn or spring fertiliser to reduce acidity. Containing magnesium and "good-guy" bacteria, the product is designed to create a healthy sward, reduce thatch and maintain a strong colour throughout winter.


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