Green Living

How to use all the fallen leaves in your garden this autumn

From attracting tuis to dealing with leaves and transplanting roses, our gardening guide will show you what to prune and plant this autumn

How to use all the fallen leaves in your garden this autumn

+ The naturalistic look is big in gardens right now so why not give it a try by planting spring bulbs in the lawn? Choose a spot that you don’t need to mow too often such as under trees. Throw bulbs onto the ground and plant them where they fall for a really natural look. If you like to keep grass shortish, choose early-flowering varieties so the lawn doesn’t get too long as you wait for foliage to die down in spring. Or just leave grass long in that area until flowering has finished and leaves have gone brown (essential for building up food for next season).

+ If you’re keen to attract tuis to the garden, plant one of their favourite trees. For small gardens try one of the medium-height cultivars of Prunus campanulata, kowhai or bottlebrush.

+ That great gardener Gertrude Jekyll believed that roses grown from cuttings were longer-lived and flowered better than grafted types. Now is a good time to take rose cuttings and it’s not too difficult. Simply cut a 15cm piece from the middle of a stem that has flowered, slanting the bottom. Dip cutting into rooting hormone and place into a sandy, well-drained soil mix with 1-2 growth nodes below soil level. Keep moist and wait for cuttings to take root and produce leaves in spring.

+‘Never turn down free stuff for the garden’ is my motto. Autumn leaves are a particular favourite as, besides being free, they are full of valuable nutrients and organic matter. I often take a plastic bag or three with me on my walks at this time of year to grab as many fallen leaves as I can. Put them into the compost to balance your carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (ideally 25:1) or spread them around as mulch in the garden.

+ Many shrubs and perennials will prolong their flowering periods if you deadhead (remove spent blooms) regularly. A good feed at this time of year will also promote a late flush of flowers, particularly for roses.

+ Lilies (Asiatic, Christmas, oriental) should be planted in May, in positions where their roots are cool but their flowering stems get lots of light. For plentiful blooms feed with bulb food before and after flowering and water during hot weather. Drainage needs to be top notch also. Bulbs are generally available online and in garden centres at this time of year. Choose plump bulbs and don’t allow them to dry out.

+ May is a good time to transplant roses that are overcrowded or not thriving. Fungal diseases flourish when rose bushes are planted too close to other plants.

Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: Simon Griffiths.

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