Western Isles Gardening
Western Isles gardens in October are rather wet this year. My final grass cut of the year, which I planned for September was rained off like so many other local events.
The lawns that I care for will be a lot less soggy this winter, if in October when there are a couple of drying days I rake out the moss, then aerate them with a garden fork.
I am not anti-lawn, Orchids, Dog Violets and Primroses grow in my lawns because the grass is kept fairly short, and these plants get overcome and die out in a meadow. On the local machair areas something similar happens when the sheep graze over winter.
Traditionally the Garden Year started in October. After the crops were harvested and stored, then the whole round started all over again with soil preparation for the next spring.
Although the weeds appear to have died back it is labour saving to remove any weeds that are developing seed heads now, because they can still mature during late autumn and multiply your problems. Also when the soil is moist it is the easiest time to get the Creeping Buttercup crowns out. (If you do not let any two of Buttercup's long white roots under the crown stay joined together at the top, the plant ceases to be a problem)
I make special effort at this time to clear the ditches in whole garden (in a Western Isles garden that is usually a lot of ditches!) also taking particular care to keep the drainage good around the edges of planting beds, these beds will become swamps unless the water table is kept as low as possible, and if they do become water-logged, the soil will become stale, deprived of oxygen, plants will rot and be sickly, inviting unhelpful bugs and diseases, the soil will be slow to warm in Spring and so soggy you will not be able to get near it, to work it and make an early start next year.
Standing on planks and boards can be useful, if the soil surface is too unstable to take your weight to ditch it. Also if you have clay soil it is best to try not to walk on it when it is very wet else the clay compacts further and drainage becomes even worse, again the boards can be a way to spread your weight so you can ditch or dig the soil.
Most gardening books recommend lowering the water table by a huge amount, here in the Western Isles we have bedrock and that often is just not possible. I have found that if I am lucky enough to be able to keep the water level about 12 inches (and sometimes even less) below the soil surface around my plants, they will do very well, and that a trench 12 inches deep, a bit wider than a spade will do the job for most ditches but not streams.
Soft rush blocks steams and ditches creating the bogs which it thrives and multiplies in.
Heavy Machinery Damage
Large ditches and streams usually require earth-moving machinery; try not to let any heavy machinery on your cropping beds, flowers, fruit and vegetables, or your lawn, the compression damage to the structure and drainage can, last for years. If you consider that the popular no-digging approach to gardening, rates not walking on the soil as very important, you can imagine how harmful heavy machinery on the soil is considered by some to be.
October Elemental Gardening
Gardening is an outdoor activity; it involves interacting with the elements, and here in the Western Isles the winds gales and storms can be a bit wild at this time of year! I always feel that the process of gardening is more important to me than the results (which can be unpredictable) I recommend getting out there. You may get a bit muddy, especially if ditching. But there are many benefits to mind, body and spirit in being outdoors at this time of year, enjoy it!
Local horticultural groups or gardener's clubs can add details of meetings etc to the garden page - email webmaster.
Peaches, grapes, tomatoes and other salad crops are
grown on The Poly Croft on the Isle of Lewis
Visit the web site for growing tips and location details of the most North Westerly vineyard in the UK...