Autumn in the garden at Croft

The walled garden in October at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

Croft’s head gardener, Jonathan Kellett, is busy all year round with his dedicated team of staff and volunteers and autumn is no exception. Read on for some handy tips and ideas for cultivating a beautiful autumn garden.

As flowers fade in the beds and borders and the days shorten, our thoughts turn to autumn and winter jobs. The gardening year follows the same sort of pattern every year from planting in spring, grass-cutting and weeding in summer and then cutting back the herbaceous borders and tidying up ready for the end of the season.

At the moment, as autumn begins, we are busy with several jobs. In the vegetable garden we are planting garlic; autumn is the traditional time to plant garlic as it likes a period of cooler weather to grow well. It’s best planted in a sunny spot in well-drained soil. It’s also a good time to plant out spring cabbages; six inches apart in rows 24 inches apart. We also pick apples when they can be easily twisted from the branch and then store the unblemished fruit.

" Don't forget to cover your plants with protective netting or you can try making a bird scarer in the shape of a hawk as we do at Croft. "
- Jonathan Kellett
Explore the walled garden at Croft Castle in Herefordshire
A sign points visitors in the direction of the walled garden at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

For the rest of autumn, we like to lift and divide big clumps of perennials, especially crocosmia and achillea, which we have a lot of at Croft. Our many dahlia tubers are dug up before the frost sets in and they are then stored in boxes of sand in our Edwardian glasshouse.

We always cover our pond in autumn with fine mesh to keep the leaves out. Then in late autumn, we start to empty our compost bins; we have several composting areas which produce really good compost for mulching beds and improving poor soil.

Something particularly special and unique to Croft is our working vineyard. In autumn we harvest our 450 ‘Phoenix’ grapevines which we send off to make a medium dry white wine. This is then available to buy in the Stables shop and makes a lovely gift.

Croft's 'Phoenix' variety of grape makes a very crisp white wine
The vineyard at Croft Castle in Herefordshire in autumn

As autumn progresses into winter, we always give our glasshouse a thorough clean, getting rid of old pots and other debris. The interior is then cleaned with a weak solution of disinfectant and any moss and algae is brushed off the glass.

Come and see the restoration of this glasshouse in progress
A view inside the glasshouse at Croft Castle and Parkland in Herefordshire

We prune our orchard of 40 different cultivars of apple, such as Doctor Hare and Langley pippin in December. Spurs are pruned and some bigger growth is removed to keep the canopies nice and open.

Autumnal apples in the walled garden at Croft
Apples in the walled garden at Croft Castle in Herefordshire

After the rush of summer and the non-stop weeding, it is nice to have a quieter time in the garden. There is still lots to do, but the jobs are different and are generally ones that keep you warm. It’s also good to see the garden stripped back and hunkered down ready for the worst of the winter weather. Then come early spring, we are all looking for the first shoots of colour and for the whole cycle to begin again.