Tips for Your Autumn Garden from the StABG Garden Team
Reading Time 2 minutes and 50 seconds
Date 14 September 2023
With Autumn almost here, we've asked our Garden Team to share their top tips for your Autumn Garden!
Cut areas of long grass
If you have left any areas of your lawn to grow long, it’s a good idea to cut at least some of it during late summer or early autumn. Removing the vegetation each year slowly reduces the nutrients available and will eventually give the edge to the less competitive wildflowers rather than the coarse grasses. Unfortunately there are few quick wins here! We have tried various methods to cut the long grass, and currently work with the university to use their big, specialist mower. However, for smaller areas a strimmer, scythe or even shears are all options.
We also leave some of our long grass over the winter to provide extra habitat for invertebrates.
Early autumn is a great time of year for planting – while the soil is still nice and warm but hopefully with more reliable soil moisture than in high summer. By this point in the year, container-grown stock is probably well established with lots of root, so make sure that the roots are teased out before you plant if necessary. It can even be a good idea to slice vertically through the exterior of the root ball if it is very congested.
Don’t forget to order bare-root stock for planting later in the autumn – if you want a particular plant or cultivar it can often pay to get in there early rather than be disappointed later. These plants probably won’t be lifted until they are dormant in late autumn / early winter, but it is always a good idea to get the planting area ready in advance.
- Peter’s tip for re-vamping a border is to start in late summer whilst the soil is still workable. Time spent preparing an area well is never wasted! It is also a good time to lift and divide any of the plants you want to keep, and it’s probably a better bet to do this in early autumn given the dry springs we have had in Fife in the last few years.
Lots of spring flowering bulbs, such as Narcissus or Crocus , are best planted in September or October, but tulips do better if you hold off until November – it is said that the colder soil at this time of year presents a lower risk of infection by fungal and viral diseases. Remember to plant bulbs deeply – three times the height of the bulb is a good rule of thumb.
- Moira recommends Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’ because they are great for pots, and will even do in a windy spot, since they are quite short and sturdy.
Even into September, you can sow quick crops such as salad leaves and radishes, especially if you can give them some shelter in bad weather. Marijke is looking forward to sowing winter crops of barley and rye in the botanic garden, which is hardy and will sit fine over the winter. It’s worth giving this a go at home this even if you only have a small space, since its so rewarding to follow the whole process right through to a tasty loaf or two next year.
It's also a great time to save seeds. The best time is usually just when the seeds are starting to be released naturally – collect them and store somewhere cool and dry in a paper bag. Some plants, such as Primula or Trillium , germinate best if the seed is sown fresh – another advantage over buying seed which has often been stored.
The team’s favourite autumn plants:
- Nerine bowdenii – bright pink flowers in September/October on this glamorous S African bulb
- Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ - a really good, reliable plant which doesn’t need staking
- Betula ermanii – often the first tree in the garden to show autumn colour – a beautiful golden yellow reminder of the seasons changing