THE TATSFIELD GARDENER IN OCTOBER
Here and there in the low lying areas of the village you may have noticed a very brief ground frost late last month? It was the same this time last year. These early frosts are fleeting, only the early risers will see them and they look just like a heavy dew. Chilly mornings in September and October do not signify colder weather generally, but they do check growth of vegetables and flowering plants.
The Met Office long range forecast does not contain any significant rain, or frost, through this month although there may be some showers. The very dry weather continues!
One plant that has thrived in our hot and dry summer is Canna (Indian Shot – so called because of its very hard round seeds). I was asked at our Autumn Show if Cannas could be left in the ground over winter and be ok. I said no, best to lift them, dry them out and store in a frost free place. Just like Dahlias, start them off next year in March by putting them in a pot of fresh soil and give them a good drink but do not water them regularly. In the 1960’s they were a very popular summer flowering bedding plant but never planted out until June and not a chance they would survive a winter outdoors. But, with our climate changing at quite a pace it will not be long before they, and other tender perennials, will be ok outside over winter.
Remember that if you have basket Begonias, Ivy Leaved Geraniums, Fuchsias and bedding Geraniums, these are tender perennials that can be stored over winter if you have a frost free place to store them. With prices rising all the time it seems very likely that these will be much more expensive to buy next spring.
I have noticed some lovely Sunflowers around the village, another plant that thrives in hot weather. The flower heads are now ready to be removed and left in a sunny spot to complete the ripening of the seed. This is a very valuable source of food for our bird population so please do not throw them away!! Put them in a net and hang them up at least three feet above the ground and watch the birds feed greedily as soon as the cooler weather arrives. Alternatively, firmly rub the face of the flower head to release the seed, put it in a paper bag and put the seed out a handful at a time in a bird feeder.
If you are thinking of buying some bedding plants to give some cheer over the winter months have a look for Violas, these are the small flowered Pansies that do very well in containers. If planted this month they will grow strongly and quickly start flowering. They will continue to flower when the weather is mild but will also survive frost and cold winds. Give them a liquid feed in the spring to help them grow new shoots and flower buds to give a super show in April and May.