Diarmuid’s autumn advice

John Stilwell/PA Photos
John Stilwell/PA Photos

After a glorious summer at home pottering around his garden in Ireland, green-fingered TV presenter Diarmuid Gavin is now preparing his beds for the cooler months.

“Things in my own garden are beginning to die back. I have some wisterias I’ve been training up a cast iron verandah and underneath that I will be ripping out some perennials that haven’t been happy in my garden, like a trochodendron, which has looked sickly and has black spots under the leaf.”

He swears by the following tips for renewal and regeneration which will help your garden withstand the cooler months and ensure it is in good condition for the year ahead.

“It’s time to get ready for renewal and the first thing to look at is the lawn, which has probably been battered by kids running all over it in the summer holidays.

“A really good maintenance session, scarifying, aerating and topping up the roots of the grass plants with some autumn fertiliser will make a massive difference,” he says. “Really getting stuck in with a spring tine rake to remove all the thatch is an incredibly satisfying job.

“For a couple of weeks, the lawn will look like you’ve demolished it, but later on, it will improve its condition. It’s all about toughening it up to get it ready for winter. Spiking it and aerating it really allows the oxygen to get right down to the roots, but also releases some of the other bad gases that may have built up. Be cruel to be kind.”

Continue to deadhead anything that’s still in flower but also visit your local garden centre to see what’s coming into flower.

“Some of the autumn sedums are fantastic and encourage butterflies, so you could drop in some spot colour before the frost comes. Dahlias such as Bishop of Llandaff with bright flowers and deep purple foliage look fantastic now so put them in pots in the border.

“Some of the Japanese anemones also look fantastic and there’s plenty of scope for using spot colour in the garden. You don’t have to give up just yet. Even some of the exotic-looking cannas, such as Canna Tropicanna, are looking good now.”

You’ll have to rake up fallen leaves or they will suffocate any plant life underneath them and provide shelter for pests. If you have lots of leaves and enough space and time, make leaf mould by putting your leaves into dustbin liners with air holes in them and leave them to rot down to make a great mulch. It does, however, take a year or so for the leaves to break down sufficiently to use.

Tidy up herbaceous perennials that are flopping or have developed rust.

In a month’s time, you can start to lift and divide perennials to renew their vigour and produce new plants. Out of one clump, you may get seven or eight smaller ones. Replant them, digging organic matter into the soil at the same time and they should give you a good show next year.