Have you seen the weather forecast?

We may get lots of snow

Is my garden ready and prepared?

The honest answer’s “No.”

I’ve still to lift the dahlias

The cold spell’s due in weeks

The fuchsias need protection

But I’ll maybe leave the leeks.

Well that’s the growing season finished for another year. I’m pleased to say that my little veg’ plot has provided a good crop – apart from the potatoes which got a bit diseased early on.

As I write the main crop carrots are still in the ground. I had an idea to do a late sowing of Chantenay Red Core. These were sown on the second week of July, survived the torrential four weeks of August and now have provided as respectable harvest of tender roots. Not show-stopping in size but well worth blanching and putting in the freezer.

I thought I had protected my allotment from the usual pest subjects like hares, deer and caterpillars but had not reckoned on the plague of sweet-toothed mice that descended on the beetroot. Money was spent on numerous mousetraps and a fair quantity of peanut butter – and the problem stopped. Continuing on the theme of vermin I noticed that this year’s beech mast has a better than usual viability so there are bound to be a multitude of plump grey squirrels looking to create mischief during the winter months.

Human foragers have had a good autumn too. The wet and mild end to the summer has caused all sorts of mushrooms to erupt from the woodland floor. I’m not an expert in identifying the safe ones and could not tell a Fly Agaric from a Chantarelle. To my mind the whole idea is too risky. I believe there is a chainsaw carving of a toadstool in some region of the Galloway forest. The plaque next to it reads:

We came out here to forage for berries and fungi

If you go and pick the wrong stuff the chances are you’ll die

So beneath here lies the body of Jessie Jean McClure

Who thought that she could eat it, but I wasn’t quite so sure

We had a couple of nips of frost here in North Ayrshire in late September. Nothing too severe and it hasn’t stopped some plants from giving a show of colour well into this month.

Hydrangea Deep Purple creates a big, bold splash of magenta. This is not a small plant and needs plenty of space to accommodate its vigorous globe-forming habit. Ideal as a ‘stand-alone’ specimen in gravel. Prune down flowering shoots before winter but leave the non-flowering stem to bloom next year.

In the herbaceous garden the autumn flowering Sedum Brilliant has just off colour (a good source of late season nourishment for bees, so they’ll be happy). Luckily Aster nova belgii Jenny is still looking good. Plentiful dark red flowers on a compact plant – and not too prone to mildew either.

One of the conundrums with herbaceous borders is when to divide and multiply the various occupants. The problem with leaving the work later into the year is that you can’t identify where the plant extends to as all the foliage has disappeared. With the current damp conditions I don’t think there is a risk of the plant drying out, so once all the flower/seed-head interest has gone, shear stems and foliage down to about six inches high then use a sharp spade to chop clumps apart. No point in adding compost when you replant them as they are now heading into dormancy anyway.

If you are in the mood you can also tackle the relocation of evergreens at this time of year. Does that Rhododendron need moved to a more prominent position? Is that Hebe getting shaded out? October is the time to make the move. After replanting give the shrub a decent trim to get over the shock and it should sprout away happily next year.

Talking of sprouting things. With Christmas fast approaching thoughts turn toward choice of tree. There seems to be a steady demand for potted fir trees. These tick the box for your environmental credentials – but what to do with them in January?

They do not grow well – long term – if kept in the pot (soon pot-bound and starving) and also hate being transplanted. If you do plant it out at the bottom of the garden you’d best be aware that it does not respond well to trimming and will romp away and block out your, or your neighbour’s, view very quickly.

Along with the beech trees that I mentioned earlier, the hawthorn has set an abundance of fruit this year. Perhaps, simply due to good pollination in the spring – or is it an omen of weather to come?

The hedgerows around here are swathes of red, the fieldfares have arrived and are enjoying the bounty. Pyracantha bushes have been picked clean by blackbirds and the shiny red berries on the Cotoneaster bullatus are soon to disappear too. I used beautifully berried holly bushes for Christmas planters outside an Italian restaurant in Glasgow last year – even they had been denuded within two weeks. Maybe a lot to be said for plastic, in this case.

There is no doubt though that the addition of berries to a winter window box or patio planter does add to the festive factor. Cyclamen, primroses and violas are very nice but the inclusion of Gaultheria, Pernettya and Skimmia takes your creation to ‘another level’ as they say and brings on feelings of goodwill to all men (and women). After all, Christmas is only a few weeks away. Yikes!


General points

Good stocks of planter and baskets fillers in garden centres just now. Ornamental cabbage, trailing ivy, winter flowering and colour foliage heathers.

Check stakes and ties on trees. Also, a good time to tidy up climbing roses. (A rotten job, but somebody has to do it). Try your local PPE store for welders gloves and a firepersons jacket. Can you still get donkey jackets?

Give Crocuses a go this year. Plant 80-100 bulbs per square metre. Try Pickwick and Yellow Mammoth for reliable show of contrasting colours.

Consider bringing in any pot plants that are tender. Cordylines will not be happy in this rain and should not go into winter with wet feet. Fuchsias will need dried back and perched in the porch, as will Pelargoniums.