Le Jardin Contemporain // The Contemporary Garden - Barry Watton Garden Designs

Welcome (and October Gardening To Do List)

Hello and welcome to my new blog.

I will be using this blog to share with you the development of my new gardens, which will hopefully be a source of help and inspiration both to those new to gardening and experienced hands alike.

I intend to take you through the project, right from development of initial conceptual ideas, planning, construction, planting and then through maintenance regimes as the gardens mature over the coming years.

I am new to the Vienne department in France and whilst I feel that my horticultural experience and preferred selection of plants are adapted to suit the conditions here, I still have much to learn about the soil, the weather and landscape vernacular here. I am expecting to have some planting failures as well as successes as I learn more, but I guess that is part and parcel of the fun of gardening.

I hope that people reading this blog will use this platform as a two-way communication channel and that gardeners in the region will be able to put me on the right track where I have gone wrong! I will also be asking you for your input and advice from time to time as I settle into my new business here and am still finding my feet with suppliers etc.

The blog will also serve as a reminder, month-by-month, of the routine jobs that need to be done over the course of the year, which I hope will be of some help to you. As spring starts a little earlier here in this part of France and summer lasts a little longer, when compared to the UK, it will be of interest to me to see how ahead/behind the UK we are here in terms of the gardening calendar as the seasons progress.

Le Jardin Contemporain // The Contemporary Garden - Barry Watton Garden Designs

I have already made a start with my new main garden, the details of which I shall be sharing on this blog very shortly, but for now I shall leave you with a handy reminder of some of the garden jobs you ought to be considering this October:

  • Hedges

Typically hedges will have been cut in September once the birds have finished nesting. However, if you have not already done it, October is not too late to get this task done. Pruning deciduous hedges during winter can stimulate increased growth the following spring, and so to restrict the amount regrowth prune both evergreen and deciduous hedges now. This will keep the garden looking sharp during winter, when for the most part it will be dormant.

  • Division

Daytime temperatures are still sufficiently warm to keep the soil warm also. Increase your planting stock of your favourite herbaceous perennials (except grasses, leave division of these to the spring), and rejuvenate any on the wane, by dividing them and replanting.

If you are lucky enough to have access to a low-nitrogen fertiliser containing bone meal (my limited experience so far suggests that the French garden centres and nurseries do not sell bone meal fertiliser?) use some in the planting hole to encourage good root growth before the winter sets in.

  • Lawns

This summer was pretty brutal to lawns, which were fried to a crisp here and have been dormant since July onwards. The autumnal rains are now bringing green back to the lawns, but they will always appreciate some help to keep them in tip top condition.

Scarify the lawn to remove all thatch, aerate (especially frequently walked areas that will be compacted), and reseed bare patches.

‘Top dress’ by brushing into the lawn surface a compost/sand mix (I find using a stiff bristled broom is better than a rake). In the UK top dressing can often be bought ready mixed, I suspect here in this part of France one must make their own mix, in which case your local déchèterie will likely supply compost at a cheap rate to which you will need to add a washed sand. For ratio details see here. If you wish, apply an autumn formula lawn fertiliser low in nitrogen and high in potassium to encourage strong grass roots.

Regularly clear leaves from the lawn and add those leaves to the compost heap.

  • Plant bulbs

Plant all winter and spring flowering bulbs now (all except tulips being planted in the ground that is, which should not be planted out until next month to minimise the risk of tulip ‘fire’).

  • Greenhouse

Clear the greenhouse of any tomatoes or other summer produce that is by now finished. Make chutney of any unripened green tomatoes you may still have.

Compost the plant waste, unless affected with blight in which case burn it (with the permission of the local Mairie, of course). Provided it is free of any pests or disease, old compost can be added to beds as a mulch or to the compost heap.

Wash down all glass with a suitable detergent, see here.

Bring any seedlings/young and tender plants (such as citrus trees, pelargoniums or bananas) into the greenhouse for overwintering.

  • Deadheading

Continue deadheading any late flowering annuals and perennials, such as Dahlias and Cosmos.

  • Raspberries

Prune out finished canes from your summer fruiting raspberries at their base. This summer’s canes to be pruned out will be brown. Leave the green canes, which will produce next year’s crop, and tie them in to your support to simplify management and protect them from any storm damage. Leave autumn fruiting raspberries alone until the end of the year.

  • Hardwood cuttings

Take hardwood cuttings of shrubs you would like to make more of in the garden, such as roses, cornus or even hedging material to extend or make a new hedge. For details of how to take hardwood cuttings, see here.

  • Collect seed

Take a few seed heads from your favourite flowers. Germinate any hardy species now and overwinter them in the greenhouse/polytunnel/coldframe. Dry and store half hardy and tender species until ready for sowing in spring.

Remember to leave some seed heads for the birds and the winter frost (I will be touching again on the importance of this point in particular in later posts)!

  • Storm weather checks

Check all climbers are securely tied to their supports and trees 3 years or younger are staked in preparation for storms and winter weather. Replace any weak or damaged jute, ties and stakes as appropriate.

  • Take stock of the year

Begin thinking about the successes and failures of your garden this year, consider what changes you might like to make as a result, and plan ahead for next year.

Are there any gardening jobs typically done in the Poitou-Charentes this time of year that you can also recommend? Do you have a particular job in the garden this time of year you look forward to? Are there any topics you might like to see covered in this blog in particular?

If you would like help with garden maintenance or with planning ahead for next year, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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