Allotment Associations & Horticultural Groups in Harrow, Middlesex
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Big decision time, as you clear the garden, do you store up goodness by having a compost heap or get rid of all rubbish, quickly into the brown bin?

Dahlias: For as soon as the first frost blackens the foliage of the dahlias, it is time to cut back to about 6 inches above the ground. Then, with a fork, carefully dig up the plants, taking care not to damage the fleshy tubers. If any tubers are accidentally damaged, cut the damaged parts away cleanly with a sharp knife and dust the cuts with sulphur. Remove as much as soil as possible, then stand the plants upside down in a frost-free place for about a week to let all the sap in the stems to dry out.

Roses: I suppose it’s time to talk about Roses. Do not try to move a bush until the growing season is over, and you will need a very loud alarm clock to waken them when the dormant season is here. Of course, most gardeners know that you cannot put another rose into a site where another rose has grown. The soil is sick and a lot of soil has to be changed or the ground treated with Armillatox before another rose is planted in the same position. New roses can be bought cheaply from a store, cheaper still when the retailer wants to clear stock that has been languishing for some months. But when buying a plant that will last most people’s lifetime, it is worth spending a bit more to get a nice shaped one, with a lovely scent and is disease resistant. One grower is David Austin (tel: 01903 376300) their catalogue is well worth studying for they sell roses of a good quality. The Carpenters Park garden centre stock David Austin roses and others as well.

Compost: Which is the best compost system to have? Possibly it depends on what space there is in the garden and how much you are prepared to pay; The diversity is shown in the small adverts in the RHS magazine. Possibly the best and most expensive is the double bay, slatted wood type. With this system air can get to the compost and it can be easily turned over. There are two bays so that one lot of compost can be used whilst the other one can hold compost can be left to rot. There is the type that is suspended so that it can be rotated and the compost mixed. It is also claimed that left over food stuffs can be composted as there no danger of rodents gaining entry. This way all garden waste can be converted into valuable humus, to be used in the garden soil. Grass cuttings generate a lot heat so they should be used in layers, but time must be given for the lawn weed killer to lose its power and also compost accelerator used. One well known make has an apt name; Garotta, but probably you do not know a lotta about Garotta. You can use a nitrogen based fertilizer such as sulphate of ammonia. After the old bills and letters have been shredded to prevent other eyes reading them, they are a valuable addition to the compost bin. Leaves take lot longer to rot down so they should be put in a separate heap.

Bulbs: it is time to buy them and plant them. The right depth to plant them is as follows: Narcissi and Hyacinths is 5 inches in light and four inches in heavy soils; Tulips 4 inches in light and 3 inches in heavy soils and Crocuses between 2 and 3 inches. However, one gardening article stated that bulbs can turn and make themselves the right way up and go to the right depth, without having to sprinkle them with magic dust!

October is a busy month in the flower garden, when the change-over is made, clearing the summer bedding plants and Spring flowering ones substituted; wallflowers, polyanthus, primulas and winter pansies.

How about some exercise? If the weather is dry and conducive to it, digging can be started and manure added if there is some available. Mint can be kept handy in Winter by planting a few roots in a box and placing it in a cold frame or greenhouse. Fruit suckers from raspberries can be dug up and transplanted to increase the number of plants. Move only clean and healthy ones. Young currants and gooseberries put in as cuttings a year ago can now be moved (next month take some shoots and trim them to 12-15 inches long. Remove all the buds except the top three or four, dig a trench 7 inches deep, with a straight side and lay the cuttings 6 inches apart, put the soil back and tread down well.

Ralph of Roxbourne Society

•   October events.

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