Autumn is a fantastic time to plant anything from trees, shrubs and fruit to tiny seedlings and rhododendrons.
Although I have little experience of gardening during the season myself, research has led me to conclude that there is plenty to get stuck into during the eight-week period, whether that is giving your garden a thorough tidy or preparing your soil for spring 2022. It’s also ideal for planting.
Why is that exactly? Young plants planted into gardens in autumn have a good chance to settle in well, making optimum growth under and above ground before they have to cope with the heat of the summer.
And while experts from across the globe recommend that budding gardeners take advantage of the season, the same can be said for those based locally, as well.
This includes Kenneth Cox, the author of Fruit and Vegetables for Scotland and managing director at Glendoick Garden Centre in Perth, and Ben McIntyre, a partner in Moyness Nurseries, Blairgowrie.
“If plants could choose, they’d ask to be planted in autumn,” Kenneth said. “Not all plants but definitely trees, shrubs, fruit and rhododendrons.
“While the soil is warm, roots can start growing away into the surrounding soil and will continue to do so in the autumn and early spring before the plant has to grow or flower.
“And if you plant this season, you usually won’t have to water all the time. When spring comes, you can just enjoy the plants bursting into growth.”
Pigeons, slugs and snails can pose a challenge according to Ben. However, he urges people “to not let that put you off”.
“With careful planting, there are plenty of vegetables and herbs that can be grown right through and more so if you can give them just a little bit of protection from the elements – like a cloche, mini-greenhouse or even a kitchen window sill.
“It means that you can enjoy home-grown produce for a good portion of the year! Gardening year-round is also good for both your physical and mental wellbeing. Get out into the fresh air and enjoy yourself.”
Cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprout and more
Kenneth recommends opting for daffodils, tulips, snowdrops and bluebells, all of which are available as loose bulbs at the centre. If planted in the next few weeks, he says “you will get a blaze of colour in the spring.”
There are also Japanese anemones, heathers, crocosmia and ornamental and fruit trees.
“Everyone loves Japanese anemones for late summer and autumn colour,” Kenneth continued. “For heathers, there are two main flowering periods – late summer and early spring.
“Late August and September are the months to choose from the widest range of flower and foliage colours. We sell small 9cm plants and larger one and two-litre sizes.
“The key to good looking heathers is to shear them after flowering for the spring and summer varieties, cutting back to below the flowering heads. The autumn flowering ones will only need an occasional tidy up in spring.
“When it comes to trees, we have an amazing range of apples, pears, cherries, crab apples and plums. September and October are the ideal months to plant trees while the soil is still warm.”
Ben’s recommendations go beyond that. He highlighted cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprout, parsnip, kale, leeks, potatoes, chard, rocket, parsley, sage, thyme, tarragon, mint and basil are also worth planting.
“Certain parts of the country are different to others so, for instance, the West is damper than the East as a rule in Scotland and that may effect what you can grow to a certain extent,” Ben said.
“You may want to avoid parts of the garden that flood in winter, but with the use of raised beds or containers, most gardens can be utilised for year-round produce.”
‘Just go for it’
For those contemplating the idea of gardening at this time of year, Ben is urging people to “go for it”.
He added: “There is nothing more satisfying than harvesting sprouts or parsnips for your Christmas Day lunch, and any vegetable in general really.
“Yes, you may have some failures weather-wise but there will be triumphs, too.”
For more on the Home Harvesting series…