Autumn: the busiest season for gardeners at Polesden Lacey

A group of gardeners plant bulbs on the lawn slopes at Polesden Lacey

As the shadows lengthen and the colours begin to deepen and get richer throughout the garden, our garden team gear up for their busiest time of year. Head Gardener, Jamie Harris, explains the different jobs on the docket for our gardeners in the season of mist and mellow fruitfulness.

October marks the proper start of the autumn season here at Polesden and it's such an important time for our team in terms of our conservaiton work in the garden. The following are some of the jobs you might see us doing this autumn...

Caring for our lush and lovely lawns

Although the grass in the garden will continue to grow at a slower rate throughout autumn, it won’t yet be fully dormant.  October is therefore a great time to start the Autumn turf care regime and this can take many forms.  

Aerating and scarifying

Aerating a lawn is the process of improving compaction and drainage in the soil by making holes in the turf.  This will also encourage root growth and improve oxygen content at root level.  It can be done with a garden fork on small lawns or with a powered machine on larger areas.

Scarifying a lawn involves scratching and scraping away at the surface to remove thatch (a build up of dead grass and moss that can reduce light and moisture penetration).  It can be done with a strong wire rake on small areas or again a powered scarifier machine for larger lawns.

The South Lawn looking out on Ranmore Common
The South Lawn at Polesden Lacey
The South Lawn looking out on Ranmore Common

Another key autumn turf job includes applying a sandy top dressing to improve soil texture and encourage rooting.  This is best done after aeration.  

Applying an autumn feed high in phosphates, to improve root development, is also a good idea at this time of year.  October is also ideal for carrying out any re-seeding or re-turfing of worn areas of lawn while the temperatures are still not too cold.

Harvesting for Halloween

The Polesden Lacey pumpkin patch has become a well-loved annual feature of Mrs Greville's old kitchen garden, which you'll find over the thatch bridge. 

We begin planting back in July, but the fun part happens towards the end of October when we harvest all the pumpkins, gourds and squashes in time for the Halloween half-term.

Freshly harvested pumpkins from the kitchen garden
A display of pumpkins beside a blackboard
Freshly harvested pumpkins from the kitchen garden

Throughout most of the year, any produce from the gardens goes straight to the Granary Cafe to be made into soups, hot pots, carrot cakes and anything else the chefs might whip up. But the spoils of the pumpkin patch are sold to our visitors to be taken home and carved. This year we've raised over £600, which will go straight back into garden conservation work.

Planting spring bulbs (35,000 of them!)

Now is a perfect time for gardeners to be planting spring bulbs and here in Mrs Greville’s garden we’re no different.

Bulbs provide some of the earliest and most interesting floral displays in spring and planting them now gives them enough time to establish and get ready to come out of dormancy once Winter is over.  

A good general rule of thumb is to plant a bulb at a depth of three times its height.  For example, a daffodil bulb 5cm tall should be planted 15cm deep in the soil if possible.  It’s also important to choose your site carefully.

Bulb planting in good company
A group of gardeners plant bulbs on the lawn slopes at Polesden Lacey
Bulb planting in good company

Tulips for instance like a sunny spot in well-drained soil while some bulbs from a woodland environment such as snowdrops can tolerate and thrive in a shadier spot in humus-rich soil.

Here at Polesden Lacey we’ll be busy planting the likes of Camassia in the banks leading down to the house, hot-coloured Tulips around the house borders, Daffodils to naturalise in the West Lawn and Scilla in the spring borders.

Make sure you come back here again next Spring and Summer to see the fruits of our labour!

Donate to the Unlocking Polesden appeal

Your support will help us unlock Polesden's unseen spaces for our visitors to enjoy for generations to come.