The Berry Cottage Gardener

The Berry cottage gardener

for gardens pretty and productive


Falling In Love With Autumn

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower" - Albert Camus

Ahhh,  autumn,  my favourite season to spend time in the garden.  The scorching heat of summer has passed and yet the days are still warm enough to be working in a T-shirt.  The incessant demand of watering has waned and the growth of hedges and weeds slows.  The leaves are putting on a vibrant display,  the roses singing their last hurrah and my all-time favourites,  the violets,  are showing their pretty faces again at last.

With all this gentle beauty around,  now is the perfect time to spend a few hours (or more!) outside before the garden slips into its winter slumber.  The following are my five favourite tasks to get stuck into over the next few weeks!

1. Rake Those Leaves

There’s nothing like the crunch of crisp autumn leaves,  but after raking them into a mountain (and jumping in them, if you like),  be sure to put them to good use.  Dried leaves are a wonderful carbon addition to compost heaps or bins,  they can be spread under hedges to slowly break down,  or you can easily create a nutritious leaf mould to use as a mulch around the base of plants.  Simply fill a large bag with dried leaves,  sprinkle with a little water,  shake and tie.  Store in a shady spot to allow to rot down over the next few months.

2. Plant Bulbs

Many bulbs can be planted at this time of year,  while the soil is still warm.  My current favourite is saffron (see picture).  Despite the expense of this spice,  the bulbs are super easy to grow.  The cost is a result of the labour-intensive harvest process,  however in the home garden,  this is a joy!  Within 6 weeks of planting you’ll be rewarded with golden saffron threads from gorgeous violet flowers – perfect for paellas,  teas,  cordials or a home-grown gift for friends.

3. Divide Bearded Irises

I love irises,  however my patch is looking bedraggled and poorly productive.  I suspect these sad plants are suffering from a multitude of issues including being overcrowded (I haven’t divided them in six years),  their rhizomes being smothered by violets and too shady a position.  Now is the time to dig them out and divide,  using a sharp knife or spade,  being sure to have a good root system attached to each new section.  Cut two thirds of the leaves away in a fan shape.  When replanting,  ensure the rhizome is very near the surface of the soil.  It needs to feel the heat of the sun to produce all those beautful flowers.

4. Rhubarb,  Rhubarb,  Rhubarb

You should be able to get your hands on rhubarb crowns at this time of the year.  Rhubarb is hungry,  so be sure to dig in some aged manure and compost prior to planting.  They quite like semi-shade,  so if,  like me,  you have an area sheltered by a garden shed,  this may be the perfect position for a permanent crop.

5. Prepare For Asparagus

Patience is a virtue.  I decided last summer I wanted to devote an area of my kitchen garden to a permanent bed of asparagus.  Two year old crowns are only available in winter.  July seems a very long time away,  however the next couple of months present an excellent opportunity to prepare a weed-free,  nutrient dense home for them.  I’m digging in cow manure and my finest compost,  then covering with a layer of lucerne mulch whilst I await their arrival!