Last month I mentioned the planting of spring flowering bulbs: with the exception of tulips, which can go in as late as November, you need to get on with this now. If you are planning to grow bulbs in containers, it is wise to use fresh bulb fibre or compost, as old material may carry pests and /or diseases to your new crop; the bulb supplier will have tried to prevent this, so don’t risk negating that work.

Bulbs being forced into flower early usually require a period of darkness and cold, before being brought into higher temperatures; darkness is not too difficult to arrange, but low temperatures are not always so easy. Commercial growers may have refrigerated stores, but most of us have to make do with choosing the coldest spot in the garden. If, in order to keep them in the dark, you put the bulbs into a bag of some sort, such as a bin-liner, remember that polythene bags do not “breathe” and excessive condensation can damage the bulb foliage or even encourage botrytis*(grey mould), so something such as a paper potato sack, or one of those sometimes provided for green waste, may be better.

Hopefully, it is unlikely that we shall have frost for several weeks yet and herbaceous borders may well go on flowering well into November, albeit no longer looking their best. Be careful with frost tender subjects such as dahlias, which are currently enjoying a return to popularity; remember that unless they are planted deeply, the tubers will be damaged by low temperatures (some, really deep down, even survived last winter’s very low ones). It is best to lift them and dry them off, making sure their hollow stems do not contain water, as soon as they finish flowering and keep them in a frost free, cool, dry place for the winter, perhaps in some dry compost.

Lawns and hedges are the backbone of many gardens; The regular trimming of hedges can be completed now and new hedging planted from the end of the month. Lawns should not be cut so short late in the season, so raise the mower blade a notch or two; they can also be scarified or raked to remove “thatch” and runners of creeping weeds and treated with a slow release autumn fertilizer.

If you are a rose grower you can still be troubled by black-spot at this time of year; not only is it unsightly and debilitating for the plants, but the disease carries over to next season on fallen leaves. As well as continuing a spraying programme, unless you are opposed to that, remember to pick up as much dead leaf material as possible and ideally burn it. If you put it on the compost heap, it must be one that gets hot enough to destroy fungal spores; or as I have said before, put them in the green bin and send them off to be composted at high temperatures. It is worth removing long shoots from shrub roses in the autumn so that the bushes do not get rocked about too badly in autumn gales, which we often have about the time of the equinox.

As with hedging, new shrubs and trees can be planted from containers at this time, to take advantage of warm soils, but bare-rooted stock is unlikely to be available from producers until after the leaves have fallen. If you choose to add compost or composted bark to the planting hole, mix it with the soil you have dug out and then put it in; if you dig a hole in heavy soil and fill it with peat or compost and plant into that, the tree or shrub roots may stay in the compost and not go into the surrounding soil; this will make the plant much less stable and likely to be blown over.

If you have strawberry plants that have produced lots of young plants on “runners”, warm soils also make this a good time to plant them where you want them.

At the end of last month, I mentioned that this is the season of flower shows and fruit, flowers and vegetables should be harvested as and when ready. If you are dissatisfied with the results from your garden, see if you can talk to the people that win prizes at local shows and get some useful tips from them as these will be based on experience in local conditions (some, of course may not want to share their secrets with potential competitors).

You should be planting over-wintered vegetables, such as cabbages, shallots and onion sets from now on and even considering digging and incorporating composted bark or mushroom compost before the ground gets too wet, to give you a good seed bed for the spring.

* Botrytis is also responsible for a disease known as “Tulip Fire” which causes severe spotting of tulip foliage and usually, death of infected plants, but it is relatively unusual for amateur gardeners to try forcing tulips.