Gardens: Fill the greenhouse with hardy leaves like mizuna

Summer seems to hang on through September, but come the cold nights of October, autumn is truly in the air. This can come as a relief – the welcome signal to tidy up – at a time when many plants look a little ragged and it feels like the garden needs to move on.

In the vegetable plot, spent climbing and dwarf French beans are coming out to make way for new plantings of garlic, autumn onion sets and an optimistic sowing of hardy broad beans, which may or may not crop by early summer next year. This is also the time to pick the last tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes from the greenhouse, before giving it a good scrub and filling it with winter lettuces and other hardy leaves such as mizuna and rocket. Bring any tender plants into the greenhouse or indoors now too, before they are hit by the first frosts.

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Keep your lawn in good health by sweeping up fallen leaves regularly, and scarifying with a wire rake or machine, to remove any moss and dead thatch that has built up. It is also beneficial to aerate the soil by pushing a fork into the lawn every 15cm (6in) or so and giving it a wiggle. Finally a dose of autumn fertiliser early this month will help keep grass green and strong through winter.

Prepare for the tougher months ahead by pruning back bush roses and summer-flowering shrubs, such as Buddleja davidii and Lavatera, by half, to prevent them rocking in the wind. Now is also a good time to check that tree stakes are solid, that ties are sound and that no part of the tree is going to be damaged by rubbing against them.

Make time for planting too among all the other jobs, because the warm, moist soil is perfect for planting perennials, trees and shrubs, along with spring bedding. Ditch any remaining summer bedding and pack containers with some welcome colour for the winter months by mixing bedding plants, such as violas and primulas, with bold evergreen perennials, such as heucheras and hellebores, and petite bulbs including dwarf narcissi or Muscari. Finally, don’t forget to plant spring and summer-flowering bulbs wherever there’s the tiniest space. Crocuses, daffodils, tulips, alliums and lilies are just a few of the huge range ready to drop into well-drained soil now, at about three times the bulb’s depth, for a succession of vibrant blooms 
next year.