We're settling back at home this afternoon after a week's holiday in Coverack on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. We were meant to be in Sicily (a holiday that we booked last year, long before Covid-19 was part of our day to day vocab), but due to various flight cancellations and quarantine requirements we ended up with a stay-cation instead. We were lucky to be able to take advantage of the week off work and head down to the south coast. We booked a small holiday bungalow just up the hill from the centre of Coverack and spent our time mostly just hunkering down. Taking ourselves on long, solitary walks, paddle boarding in the bay and popping to the local pub for a cheeky (socially distanced) pint or a meal.
I love the wild landscape of the Cornish coast. Although shaped by thousands of years of human intervention, it still feels remote and rugged and is a beautiful place to spend time. Over various long walks along the South West coast path I was happy to see a small collection of wildflowers still cheerily in bloom. As we wandered I spotted spiny mounds of gorse still in flower and the gorgeous lilac hues of Cornish heath. Dark blue slow berries adorned twisted blackthorn shrubs and there were also tiny shoots of betony still sporting bright magenta flowers. I spotted white sprays of some un-known umbellifer (I'm still not great with my umbellifer identification), along with yarrow, ox-eye daisy and bright pink campion. Young nettle shoots and the dark, succulent green of sea spinach poked up through rocks and grasses.
Through enjoying a more natural and wilder landscape I gain inspiration and ideas for my garden here at home in Gloucestershire. We've recently had a hedgehog visiting us and are doing what we can to ensure it has a safe space to spend time in. We put out water for it and continue to build up hidden piles of branches and garden waste. Hopeful that he or she is able to find a mate and a cosy space to hibernate over the colder winter months.
As the Autumn colours set in and the days become shorter and colder, the garden can sometimes become a forgotten space. There is a myth that we should 'put the garden to bed' for the winter months, but I find that the opposite is true. Winter gives me time to take stock, to clear away stubborn weeds, to plant for the distant arrival of Spring and prune many deciduous shrubs as they enter their dormant state. We can also spend the colder months ensuring that the garden remains a safe and welcoming space for our garden wildlife.
Whether you are lucky to garden at home, at school or as part of a wider community project, gardening can provide us with a welcome break from day to day tasks and can certainly help with both our physical and mental well-being. Shortening days and lower temperatures should certainly not keep us tucked away inside.
A few key garden tasks for the end of October as we move towards to November are:
Plant out allium, tulip, crocus and daffodil bulbs for Spring time displays. For something a little wilder you can also include our gorgeous native English bluebells. When choosing bulb varieties look to species and cultivars that will return year on year and ideally choose bulbs that are not only pretty to look at but that also add some value for garden wildlife.
Sow sweet peas for flowers next year.
In the vegetable garden, now is the time for planting garlic as the cloves need a period of cold before shooting into growth in the spring, ready for harvesting in the summer. Broad beans can also be planted now for overwintering outdoors for early Spring growth.
Clear away and compost plants from the vegetable garden that have come to the end of their lifespan. Think about any changes you will need to make to your vegetable garden for next year and what you will need to do to ensure the beds are ready for spring sowings.
Sort out and tidy up your potting shed. As sowings are now so limited, now is the perfect time to clean pots, tidy away those that you are not currently using and recycle any that are no longer usable.
Weed, weed, weed. As growth slows now is a good time to get on top of the more stubborn garden weeds.
Prune hedges and mow lawns if the weather is still fairly mild.
Prune climbing roses. For information on how to prune check out the RHS pruning guide here.
Divide herbaceous perennials and cut back any perennials that have past their best. You may choose to leave dead seed heads and decayed foliage standing for winter interest. They can also provide good habitat and food for birds, insects and small garden mammals.
Keep your bird feeders and water baths full and consider cleaning them if they are looking like they need it.
If you are uncertain about what do with your garden or need a little help and advice, don't hesitate to get in touch with Emma at Wild Edge Garden Design. For regular updates, advice and news subscribe to my blog at the bottom of this page.