Autumn gardening tips: from our garden to yours

Acers at Standen in the Autumn

We know that gardens and growing spaces have brought comfort to many of you during these difficult times. These places of calm provide an escape from the pressures of the outside world and help us keep our bodies and minds healthy.

Our gardeners have loved answering your questions. We’ll continue to bring the best of our gardens to you at home so you can get the most out of gardening this autumn.

At this time of year, it's all about preparing your garden for winter and planting bulbs for a spring display. Early autumn is a good time to plant roses, hardy climbers, shrubs and perennials while the ground is still warm.

Sensory gardens

We experience nature with all our senses and we can design our gardens and growing spaces around sight, touch, sound and smell. Inspired by the new movie adaptation of The Secret Garden, a Sky Original in cinemas and on Sky Cinema 23 October, our gardeners share their knowledge of plants that will invigorate your senses throughout the winter months.   

Wellbeing and gardens

Gardens, growing spaces and nature at home or in our local area have been a source of comfort during these difficult times. The act of gardening, growing plants or enjoying the peace and beauty of a special outdoor space is an invaluable way of recharging batteries and temporarily escaping a worrying world.

During lockdown, many of us grew vegetables and worked hard to make our gardens or growing spaces more beautiful and attractive to wildlife. There are few things more satisfying than the sight of emerging seedlings from plants you sowed yourself.

We became more appreciative of public parks and paid closer attention to the sights and sounds of the natural world around us. We know that connecting with nature enhances wellbeing. The Noticing Nature report, which we released in partnership with the University of Derby, uncovered a powerful link between nature and happiness.  

Gardens become markers of time and renew our relationship with the passing of the seasons as we watch plants shed leaves, flower, fruit and change colour. From Cragside in the north east to Trelissick in the south west, our gardeners will be working through autumn and winter to prepare gardens for spring and summer. Bulbs are being planted and shrubs and perennials are being tended to.  
 

A close-up of yellow gourds among foliage in the Kitchen Garden at Mottisfont

The restorative power of gardening

Jonny Norton, the head gardener at Mottisfont in Hampshire, is passionate about the power of gardening to mend and heal, and it has helped him to deal with periods of depression. The different textures and scents he encounters while gardening helps him remain present. He also enjoys the tangible rewards of growing fresh food.

Pumpkin 'Atlantic Giant' growing in October in the Kitchen Garden at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

What's in season: October 

As the nights get longer and the days get colder, we're looking at what fruit and veg you can buy or harvest in October. From hearty stews to warming soups, we've also got plenty of delicious recipes using fresh and seasonal produce.

Keeping your plants healthy 

UK Plant Health Week in September celebrated the benefits of healthy plants, which clean the air we breathe, provide food, support wildlife and boost the economy. To show our support for the campaign, which encouraged people to do their bit for plant health at home, we asked our gardeners to share their top tips on keeping plants happy and healthy.

Reduce the risk of disease in your garden

Biosecurity may sound very high-tech in terms of domestic gardens but there are several simple measures to reduce the risk of introducing or spreading diseases. It's important to keep an eye out for diseased plants and then, if you'll excuse the pun, nip the problem in the bud. 

Once a pest, disease or pernicious weed has got into a garden, it’s very hard to get rid of, so be extra careful when bringing in new plants, soil or other materials. Only buy or accept healthy looking plants from reputable sources and resist the temptation to accept offers of surplus topsoil or old compost of uncertain origin that could harbour invasive pests or weeds. Propagating your own plants from seed or cuttings is not only enjoyable, it also eliminates the risk of bringing in new diseases. 

Some plants such as roses, box and cherries are highly susceptible to various fungal and bacterial diseases and particular care should be taken to prevent the spread to other plants. Tools such as secateurs should be disinfected as you move from one plant to another and any diseased plant material should be destroyed, not sent to the compost heap with the healthy stuff. 

As a rule, healthy plants tend to be more resistant to any pests or diseases doing the rounds and feeding the soil is fundamental to ensure they continue to thrive. Mulching with homemade compost is the best way to do this and has the additional benefit of preventing many soil-dwelling diseases from moving onto the lower foliage of susceptible plants.

We need your support 

We care for more than 200 gardens with a history spanning 400 years or more. This involves protecting a collection of 70,000 different types of plants, as well as a variety of different landscapes and historical features. Taking care of all of this is challenging and costly work and we can't do it without your help. A donation of £25 today could help us plant a rare rose shrub or contribute towards replanting a herbaceous border at one of the places in our care. 

Wimpole gardener with a large fork full of freshly dug purple flowers over his shoulder

Keep gardens growing 

Now more than ever, we need gardens and parklands to escape to. Give today and together we can help nature recover and ensure our shared history continues to inspire us all. Thank you for your continued support, we couldn't keep gardens in bloom without it.

Meet the experts

Rebecca Bevan at Mount Stewart

Rebecca Bevan, garden researcher

Beccy trained at RHS Garden Wisley and has worked as a Head Gardener and a Horticultural Researcher for BBC Gardeners’ World before coming to the National Trust. Her job involves providing advice to Trust gardeners and writing books and articles about gardening. During lockdown she was delighted to be helping members with their gardens by sharing hints and tips, plus spending more time than ever before in her own.

Kate Nicoll demonstrating pear pruning in the walled garden at Attingham

Kate Nicoll, gardens training specialist

Kate spent 15 years as a BBC producer before her childhood love of gardening led to a career change. After completing a gardening apprenticeship she became senior gardener at Attingham Park. Kate is now responsible for training opportunities for all our gardeners and apprentices, but during the current crisis she is busy writing and even filming in her own back garden in North Wales.

Simon Toomer, national specialist, plant conservation

Simon Toomer, national specialist, plant conservation

Simon is the Trust’s specialist for all areas of plant conservation in gardens and parks. Most of his career has been in arboriculture and forestry and Simon was previously Director of Westonbirt Arboretum.