While on the subject of watering with the hose let me urge that if you are going to do it, do it well. A gentle sprinkling may make the ground look wet, but will not reach the roots of most plants. Of course you don’t want to use the blast everything flat technique, used by the reluctant child or spouse roped in to help out with the watering, but you do need to get the water down into the soil, in quantity. So perhaps only water a quarter of the garden each day, but do it thoroughly, and if you need to answer a call of nature yourself, leave the hose running at the foot of a shrub.
The gardener here is not the only one confused by the strange pattern of sun and rain this season: a neighbour’s Magnolia is flowering cheerfully, thinking it is Spring, and many herbaceous plants of the high summer, which I had trimmed back and put to bed for this year, are flowering again, and dotting the border with red and purple.
However, despite the illusions of an Indian Summer and the tropical downpours, it is time to gird up our loins and address ourselves sternly to the gardener’s autumn tasks. It is already time to plant some bulbs: but, should you get me to do it for you, I will beg on my knees (even on the sodden lawn), that you buy some good strains.
Don’t be tempted with the cheapest Narcissi in the Garden Centre, or the Pound Shop Tulips. For just a few pounds more you can have Spring flowers that are really worth looking at, that will attract visitor’s eyes with their shapes and colours, and will give you pleasure year after year. Don’t just buy some brown lumps and hope for the best, but always see what the plants you are buy are going to look like in flower.
Another Autumn task I like to recommend for my customer’s consideration is a bit of tender, loving care for the lawn: with the thin dry soil we have in West Wickham, a pleasing lawn is a labour of love, and truly a case of that art which hides art. The West Wickham (South) Residents Association organises several competitions for gardens in the area, but nothing, as yet, for the best lawn.
Fortunately I love grass, and find the effort of working on a lawn amply repaid when a customer sees a greener, grassier, less mossy surface. For the Autumn I recommend a gentle raking to gather up some of the moss and then a thorough aeration and, whatever they say, there is nothing to beat the old fashioned garden fork for this. Aeration will beat that great enemy of grass-growth, compaction of the soil by the thudding feet of Summer. Finally a good Autumn lawn dressing is worth its price, particularly in the parts of West Wickham where the damp tends to linger in Winter.
In a few weeks it will be time to sort out the borders and, in particular, to lift and replant the herbaceous perennials, but my views on this engrossing topic will have to wait for another day, because the rain has stopped, the sun come out, and it’s time to GET OUT AND GARDEN!