Coxy`s Things to Do this Month

Martyn Cox

We are pleased to be working with Martyn Cox , Gardening Editor for the Mail on Sunday,  and author of many books on Small Gardens and Gardening with children. His pride and joy is his "compact" garden in Walthamstow, East London, crammed full of amazing ideas to use any space to the max.

Month by Month, he will guide you through the important things to do - many just a few minutes each, so you will not get tied to your plot. Doing the simple things at the right time will give you bigger and bolder displays, with less effort and larger crops to eat. Follow his step by step advice, and benefit from his years of successful gardening - little shortcuts, secrets and hints!!!

Kitchen Gardens

Spuds that are still in the ground need lifting as soon as possible. Prise them up on a sunny day and let them dry off on the soil for an hour or so before storing in paper sacks or ventilated trays.

Inspect stored fruit or vegetables, removing any that are soft or visibly mouldy to prevent rot spreading to healthy crops.

Rather than leave a vegetable bed or allotment empty over winter, sow a green manure crop. Plants, such as field beans and Hungarian grazing rye, can be sown now and help to prevent weeds from growing and capture nitrogen from the air. All of this goodness can then be dug into the soil in spring to improve its condition.

Winter moth caterpillars can strip fruit trees of their foliage in spring, so prevent female moths from laying eggs. It's easy to do this by wrapping a glue band around trunks - the sticky barrier stops the wingless adult moth from climbing up the tree.

Harvest remaining bean pods before wet and cold weather ruins the crop. After picking, chop up and compost the spent foliage, then tidy away supporting structures made from canes.

If you are growing salads for use over autumn and winter, check regularly for foot rot, which can thrive in cold, wet soil. Plants that appear to be under stress and have a brown base should be removed to prevent the spread of this fungal disease.

Divide congested clumps of rhubarb. Lift with a spade then split into pieces, ensuring that each has at least one good bud. Plant 1m apart with the bud just above the level of the soil.

Ensure you have great sprouts for your Christmas dinner by removing any yellowing leaves to improve air circulation. At the same time, help to support plants in windy weather by piling earth around stems.

Tidy up blackberries by cutting back any stems that carried fruit this year to ground level. Finish by tying in any new canes that grew this year.

Control peach leaf curl disease on apricots and peaches by spraying trees with a copper based fungicide before the leaves fall.

Start to dig vacant ground for planting and sowing vegetables in the spring - incorporate plenty of well-rotted manure to boost the fertility of the soil.

Grow garlic in 30cm pots filled with compost. Break open a bulb carefully and space five cloves around the outside of container. Plant 5cm deep, flat side down. You can use bulbs bought in the supermarket, but you'll get a better crop from those bought from specialist suppliers.

Trees and Shrubs

Remove dead, diseased and dying branches from ornamental trees. Use a sharp, hand held pruning saw to avoid leaving behind any snags or tears to the bark.

Reduce the risk of blackspot disfiguring your roses by removing leaves that fall around the base of plants, preventing spores of the fungal disease overwintering in the soil. Put them in the dustbin, not on the compost heap.

Protect newly planted evergreens from wind scorch by surrounding plants with a temporary windbreak made with tree stakes and strong netting.


Buy rolls of turf to replace heavily worn areas of lawn. Prepare the ground well by digging and levelling with a rake. Remove any large stones as you go. Firm the soil with the back of the rake, then unroll each piece of turf on top, ensuring that edges are touching. Tap with a rake so it binds with the soil beneath.

Keep off the lawn after a frost to avoid damaging grass, which could lead to unsightly fungal diseases.

Greenhouse and Indoor Plants

Be prepared for falling temperatures by checking the thermostat of electric greenhouse heaters and buying fuel for those that run on paraffin.

To prevent grey mould establishing, aim to water greenhouse plants in the morning so that the air is dry by evening.

Pelargoniums planted in beds or grown in pots on the patio should be brought indoors. Cut them back hard with secateurs to 10cm and then store in a cool, light place, such as an unheated greenhouse or porch. Those lifted from the soil should be potted up into containers filled with John Innes No.1 compost.

Cut down on the amount of water you give to houseplants, allowing the compost to almost dry before giving them more.

Close greenhouse vents and doors in mid-afternoon to trap in warmth and keep plants snug overnight.

General Care

Snap up spring flowering wallflowers, pansies, primroses and polyanthus to plant in beds and pots before winter sets in.

Plant up containers and hanging baskets with seasonal bedding plants for winter colour. Try cyclamen, ornamental cabbages, violas and pansies.

Mint dies back in autumn, but if you still want a fresh supply for your own mint sauce, try this trick. Dig up a few roots with a fork and lay on top of a pot filled with compost. Cover with a thin layer of compost, water and put on a kitchen windowsill. New shoots will soon sprout.

Remove fallen autumn leaves from around alpines to prevent diseases and to allow maximum light to reach plants.

Control fungal leaf spots on winter flowering pansies. Either pick off infected leaves or spray foliage with a suitable fungicide.

Collect autumn leaves in black plastic bin liners. When full, punch holes in the side and bottom, then tie up and put in a shady spot. In a year's time use the leaf mould inside to mulch beds.

If you have a spare hour, scrub used pots and trays in soapy water so they are ready to use next season.

Lift gladioli corms and cut off stems to within 2in of the base. When the stems have withered, tug them off and store corms in trays in a cool, dry and frost free place.

Establish a carpet of autumn flowering cyclamen by snapping up your favourite varieties while in flower and planting in short grass or under trees. There are many to choose from, but Cyclamen hederifolium is the easiest of all to grow.

Lift tubers of chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus), put them in trays or pots of compost and store in a frost free place over winter.

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