Don’t be in a rush to clear away plants

Dahlia Oakwood Firelight
Dahlia Oakwood Firelight
Freshly-picked swedes

GARDENING: How to grow great veg, with Brian Kidd

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The evenings are becoming much cooler now, but a lot of the flowers are holding on, especially in sheltered areas.

The Michaelmas daisies look beautiful alongside Kaffir lilies and Rudbeckia – they make a wonderful show with dahlias in autumn.

Never be in too much of a rush to clear away the flowering plants. Remove any dead plants in the summer containers, but keep dead heading those which are still looking good and on no account start clearing the herbaceous plants because it will expose large areas of soil that will look boring.

Wallflowers, polyanthus, winter-flowering pansies, daisies, bulbs and lots of other plants will give you a wonderful show next spring.

But try not to clear the whole garden. The best idea is to buy a few each week and allow them to grow along in cells at home. This gives you the chance of buying the colours you would like instead of mixed!

When frosts blacken the foliage of the dahlias (which always happens ‘over the hill’ before the milder parts along the coast), shall we leave the dahlias in the ground or take them into a frost-proof shed for the winter?

The old-fashioned favourites with very large tubers may be reasonably hardy and if you have been growing them for years, you know this is true. But if you treated yourself to some new dahlias last spring, then it would be wise to dig them up after the frosts have blackened the foliage.

Dahlias with very small tubers are not in the least bit hardy so, once frosts strike, cut the stems down to about six inches, wash off the tubers in cold water and leave them upside down for a few hours to drain.

Dahlia tubers must not be left in a place which will allow the frost to penetrate so, if placed into a former tomato tray with the tubers covered with leaf mould or peat, they can be left indoors all winter.

In early spring, bring them into the greenhouse so that the shoots will re-appear. This will give the plants an early start and they will start flowering again by the end of next July.

Chrysanthemums in the main are quite hardy here in the south.

Lots of gardeners leave them in the open and, once the flowers have faded, simply cut down all the stems to about two inches above the soil level.

If however you have one or two favourites, you may like to dig them up and place the plants into boxes to overwinter in the greenhouse or cold frame.

This will allow you the opportunity of taking some cuttings next February or March.

When digging out the plants, wash off all the roots in lukewarm water so that all the soil is removed. You will also wash off root aphids and tiny black slugs which are hardly visible.