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Gardener's Diary           October

Gardener`s Diary is a regular feature of run by Rosemary Martin, who is semi retired.  She says anyone can enjoy gardening whether they have a large or small garden, can`t tell a dandelion from a daisy, or are aged 9 or 90… Here you will be able to see what jobs you should be doing in the garden month by month, get ideas for spectacular seasonal planting schemes, read previews on new plants and products, find out where to buy them, and get up-to-date news of forthcoming events and places to visit. 


For those of you that have never dabbled in the "black art" of gardening you will first need to get some basic knowledge from a good gardening book. You will find some within this article as examples...


But first an introduction from Rosemary...


I have been gardening now for about thirty years, long enough for my husband to know that it`s wise to bury his head in a newspaper when I get the secateurs out...  I don`t have a favourite style of gardening, traditional is nice but I also think the modern trends work well. Plants in my garden have to be resilient as they get moved around frequently, and my husband has been heard  to mutter  “I don`t remember that tree being there this morning..”

Hobbies have come and gone over the years but only gardening has endured, and now in retirement this column adds a new dimension to the hobby, and will hopefully help others find pleasure in this healthy and therapeutic pastime  ...  


Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife



Eighteenth edition  - October 2002

Autumn, the season of falling leaves and faltering sun, copper tints and subtle colours. This month trees and shrubs take on a new look and give their final fling before winter`s onslaught - a spectacular sight. It is a time for walking in the woods, shuffling along in the crisp, crackling, fallen leaves, searching for chestnuts with grandchildren, or just walking the dogs.. 

A sure sign that autumn is upon us is when next year`s seed catalogues plop through the letter box with a resounding thud. It is always a pleasure to curl up in front of a log fire on a winter`s day doing some armchair gardening, planning next years displays and making a note of any changes to be made to the garden. I sign up for as many news letters and catalogues as I can and enjoy them all!

The last decade has seen longer summers with shorter, milder winters. I can`t remember when, here in the Midlands we last had a significant snow fall. The new milder climate appears to have upset the flowering schedules of many of my plants and shrubs, which now have extended flowering times. I have spoken to other keen gardeners who tell me the same phenomenon has occurred in their gardens. For example, I have several Mahonia Charity shrubs which would normally flower from late autumn through to early spring, approximately November through to February. But they have been flowering their heads off since the third week in August and look set to continue for weeks yet.   

Our dogs are settling down together now but seem to have made some new paths through our flower borders, which I intend to block off by some strategic planting of tough miniature conifers that need moving from elsewhere. I hope this will deter them from charging through where they shouldn`t go...

Keep the e-mails with your gardening problems coming 

October  Spotlight


The four main winter months each year can seem pretty drab and colourless in the garden, so this month I shall be explaining how you can make your winter garden more appealing and colourful 


Jobs for the month - October


House plants

If you took any house plants outside for the summer, now is the time to bring them back in, before any early frosts kill them. Reduce watering to a minimum this month. Check all houseplants for any pests and diseases and treat accordingly referring to your gardening books. 


Have you given your lawn it`s autumn `weed and feed` and a good raking?  Follow instructions regarding the composting of treated clippings. Try not to walk on worm casts, instead wait for a dry day when you can brush them with a stiff yard brush to disperse them. Don`t try to discourage worms, they are the good guys..

Herbaceous borders

Continue dead-heading, weeding and hoeing, to keep the borders looking neat. The mild weather has ensured a stunning late display of Chrysanthemums and Dahlias which are mixing with the still flowering bedding plants, combining to make the garden packed full of summer colour.  


The runner beans have become woody, but if you leave a few to ripen on the plants, you will get seed for next year. This is the main month for preparing the soil for next year`s crops. Finish lifting all root vegetables and protect cauliflower heads from any unexpected frosts.   



Put a wire mesh lid over the pond to keep the falling leaves from adding to the rotting plants and producing gases that can harm the fish. This is a good month for building an extension to an existing pond, or creating a new one. It can then have a chance to overwinter and be ready for occupation next spring. The frogs in my garden are still active due to the very warm weather we have had recently. 


Dozy hedgehogs can be encouraged to spend the winter in your garden if you provide shelter in a container for hibernation. They can be fed on worms and milk.. Squirrels hibernate on and off, sleeping for long periods, but waking when refreshed. Rabbits, foxes and moles don`t hibernate at all, but forage what they can during the winter months. Foxes are now becoming an every day sight as are the gulls which used to be seaside birds. Why not take a look round your garden and see if you can identify which birds have nested there this year - identifiable by their nests. An old nest will look tatty and unused, whilst one that has been recently occupied will look comparatively fresh with an area of droppings around it and even maybe an infertile egg remaining..

Some websites of interest to gardeners:- 


Alan Titchmarsh MBE, TV gardener, writer, broadcaster and thoroughly nice person. Just a few choice words to describe the peoples` favourite TV gardener. See his website....



Thompson and Morgan: 


A growing resource for gardeners worldwide. The site includes the international online seed catalogues, the young plants catalogue (UK only), the wholesale seeds catalogue, together with the award winning Germination Times and a host of other useful information.


Gardening is an important part of many people's lives. You don't have to give up gardening because of accident or illness, the onset of disability or the problems associated with growing older. The information on their website is designed to provide you with the information to Carry on Gardening.

Carry on Gardening was initiated by the horticultural charity Thrive and is funded by the National Lottery Charities Board.  It brings together information on easy ways of gardening gathered over 23 years by Thrive and research carried out since the early 1970s by Mary Marlborough Centre, Oxford, on tools and equipment for disabled and older people. Visit the Eden Project


The living theatre of plants and people
The Eden Project is a gateway into the world of plants and people. A meeting place for all to discover how we depend on plants and how we can help to manage and conserve them for our mutual survival.






Good reading:-


"The Yellow Book" contains information of all Gardens of England and Wales open for charity, and can be bought priced 5 from National Gardens Scheme

National Trust Gardens Handbook is 6.99 and the new edition is out in May  Telephone 01394 389 950 or see their website

RHS Garden Finder is 12.99 from Dorling Kindersley


  Have a look at previous editions of Gardener`s Diary




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