October: digging it

I love plants - and I'll tell you why.

You can stare at them, smell them, touch them, dig them up and, darn it, you can even eat them. Mostly I love them because they are nothing like call centres and mobile phone assistants. A full half of my day yesterday was spent on an inter-continental password odyssey as I was ushered from one "live chat" line to another in an effort to answer a simple question.

Ending up where I began, I felt like breaking down in tears and proposing to Ekta from BT: she finally told me what I wanted to know. We had some meaningful internet chat about apples and the minimum wage but overwhelmed by emotion, I had been released from my telephonic torment and was now free to roam the wild plains of Hampshire, unfettered by technological tantrums.

That's why I love plants. They don't answer back and you can propose to any of them at any time. You can even dig them up and divide them and, like trusting patients, they bear with you believing that you mean them no ill.

Well now I have got that off my neurotic designer chest, here are the jobs I will be tackling this coming month, preferably in the autumn sun with a cup of tea at hand:

  • Although the summer will roll into autumn, cutting back the herbaceous plants that are fading and sprawling will create a sense of order in your garden. Lift and divide ones that are overgrown clumps, especially if the core of the plant is no longer producing vigorous stems. Keep the newer sections and discard the redundant core to make way for healthier specimens.
  • Climbing roses often look straggly now: cut back the wild side stems to the main stems and cut out any main stems that are looking old or diseased in order to give healthy air circulation. Climbing roses are generally very robust, so don't be fearful of bold pruning: it will make them manageable and floriferous next season.
  • If you keep dead-heading and feeding your pot and hanging basket displays, you should be able to eke out several more weeks of colour.
  • Lawns can be scarified, raked and given a top dressing of soil. They can also been given their autumn feed to boost their growth in spring. Scarifying is basically hand or machine raking a lawn in order to remove the debris known as thatch that builds up at the base of the stems. Some lawns are green but don't have much grass in them, so be careful as to what you are getting yourself into.
  • Sowing grass seed can be successful if done soon and turf can be laid at just about any time of year other than in frosty conditions.
  • Deciduous hedges can be given a final trim to keep them tidy for the winter months.
  • Likewise, shrubs due for a hard cut in the spring can be made manageable for the winter by giving them a half prune. Plants in this category include Buddleja davidii, Cornus alba and Lavatera.
  • Trees, shrubs and climbers can be moved when the cool really sets in.
  • Keep leaves and decaying plant matter out of your ponds by using covering nets or by whiling away the hours dreamily dragging a pond net over the surface whilst you compose poetry in your head.
  • Keep an eye on the weather reports so you will be ready to bring in any tender plants or cover tender border perennials with straw or bracken. 

After all that exhausting emotion on the phone and soothing activity, it will be time for my favourite job: sitting, sipping and staring.

Does it get any better?