After the cool rainy month of August it feels like autumn is very much under way, where I am we had some very cool nights that caused the birds to really hit the feeders and the more tender bedding to set back slightly. It feels a bit early to me (and my Autumn Crocus that have been in bloom since the beginning of August, normally it’s September!) and no doubt as the children have just gone back to school we’ll get a blast of summer but there’s no reason why you don’t start to get prepared now for the actual autumn in three or four weeks’ time.
I’m not suggesting lifting tender plants yet as most are still looking good like Geraniums, Dahlia and Osteospermum or protecting plants like Gunnera , tree ferns or Banana but I don’t know about you but over the summer my shed and green house tend to get a little neglected and messy. It’s worth having a good old tidy up, sort out the pots and trays throwing out the old brittle ones and only keeping what you’ll use – it’s amazing how much space they take up. Sweep up, brush down, clean glass, check and clean gutters feeding water butts, sort tools and put them where they’re meant to be! In general get as much as possible organised and ready.
If you don’t have a lot of frost free space to over winter Pelargoniums, Geraniums etc. then there’s no reason why you don’t take cuttings now as the cuttings will take up much less space. Choose strong healthy shoots about 10cm long, ideally without flowers on (or pinch out the flowers/buds) trim the softwood cutting to just under a leaf joint and remove the lower leaves so that there’s only two or three leaves left. Use a standard seed or cutting compost which has been firmed, watered and allowed to drain before inserting the cuttings-make a hole for each cutting using a pencil, four to six per 13cm pot and firm in. Place them somewhere warm and light but not in full sun as they my frazzle and when it comes to watering its best to water from the base that way there is less chance of rot.
Another great way to save money is to collect your own seed especially from hardy annuals and biennials like poppies, cornflower, foxgloves, Calendula, Canterbury bells, Hollyhocks, Nigella and Honesty. Pick the seed heads on a dry warm day once the morning dew has gone leave them to fully dry before separating the seeds from the pods, pop them in paper envelopes, label and store in a dry frost free place until next year’s sowing. It’s also worth sowing some hardy annuals now directly in the ground where they’re to flower you get much bigger and stronger plants that way.