Peter’s Autumn Gardening tips

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Another record breaking autumn. Fabulous Indian summer, highest temperatures recorded of the year in September! So dry and warm.

As I write in the middle of October the trees are beginning to colour up. This is going to be a spectacular autumn show on trees and shrubs caused by the near drought in England.

The harvest has been in some areas fantastic, others not so good. The sun has made apples, pears, plums, nectarines and autumn raspberries very tasty. Pick and store apples and pears – only unblemished ones. Turn into cider or perry damaged ones and leave some for the wildlife – birds, butterflies – Red Admirals, foxes, badgers, voles and mice …..

The smell of ripe apples and pears is intoxicating – that cidery smell yum yum, I might have to go and sample a pint!


The last couple of months have been incredibly busy, working at RHS Wisley Autumn Flower show and visiting RHS Members gardens wanting gardening advice. With this in mind I thought I would give you a flavour of the queries and questions asked of me and the Gardening Advice Team at RHS Wisley.

Pear Rust

Orange raised blotches on virtually every leaf, seems to have been an epidemic, weather conditions have helped spread this fungal disease – a wet June, it makes the trees look unsightly. Sadly little can be done to control it. Collect up leaves if possible and burn. Keep trees fed and watered. Hope for better weather conditions next year or its going to be a disease we will have to live with. It doesn’t appear to weaken the pear tree too much.


Not flowering well in pots. The underlying problem appears to be a lack of feeding. Agapanthus need building up the autumn before the production of flowers the following summer. Wet conditions during last winter and cool conditions in spring also didn’t help! Water in a high potash liquid fertiliser – tomato feed, phostrogen, miracle gro – weekly until we get the first frosts and the foliage goes yellow. Protect from frost too.

Mildew on many plants

Powdery mildew on many plants – Phlox, Roses, Courgettes, Honeysuckles ….. Weather conditions the main cause again – so dry here in the south. Wet June followed by very dry July through to October. Stressed plants are prone to fungal and disease attacks. If we get run down we too are more prone to colds and flu !! Plants are the same so keep them happy – fed and watered around the roots. Liquid seaweed fertiliser Vitax or Maxicrop works well on stressed plants. Read the label for application rates.

Maggots in Apples and Plums

Sadly there has been a lot of damaged fruit this season, caused by several species of moth caterpillar – Apple/Winter and Plum Moth.

Pheromone traps combined with fruit tree grease applied to the trunk of the trees to control Winter Moth will help. Look at the Agralan website for non-chemical control.

Autumn leaves of Stewartia rostrata

Autumn leaves of Stewartia rostrata

Jobs to do

  • Make room in the compost bins for all the leaves to come! This is free garden compost – I know it’s a pain but it really does help your plants. Use a rotary mower to hoover up and n
  • Dig over vegetable beds or rotorvate before heavy rain comes.
  • Buy garlic, autumn onion/shallots for planting.
  • Buy Spring flowering bulbs – Daffodils, Crocus, Tulips etc.
  • Plant Winter flowering plants such as Winter flowering Heathers, foliage plants for containers with Pansies, Violas, Primroses and polyanthus and bulbs underneath.
  • Cut hedges.
  • Treat lawns – scarify and aerate. Treat for moss.
  • Bring in tender plants into conservatory or house – lemons, bananas, orchids, non-hardy plants such as geraniums, fuchsias, lantanas, cannas ……
  • Finish pruning trained fruit trees and wisteria.
  • Repairs to shed roof.
  • Pressure wash patio/decking and treat with an algicide.
  • Make a list of the successes and failures in the veg patch and garden!

Go for a walk around parks and gardens and enjoy the autumn colours!!


RHS Wisley Taste of Autumn 19-23rd of October. I’ll be answering questions on the Sunday at Gardening Advice. Pop in and ask me your most difficult question!


Enjoy the weather while it lasts and Happy Gardening!

Regards Peter Mills

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Peter Mills

I love everything to do with natural history, wildlife, biodiversity and of course horticulture - basically the big outdoors. I grew up with very good teachers namely my parents and my French grandfather who was a superb grower of vegetables. At Hadlow College I studied a three year OND in Horticulture. I had a market stall selling plants. Went onto wholesaling house plants to florists and garden centres across southern England. In 1986 I joined Clandon Park Garden Centre as manager. Whilst there I started my career as a gardening radio presenter with the BBC Southern Counties Radio. This continued for 15 years, building up valuable contacts with the RHS Wisley, live broadcasts from Chelsea & Hampton Court Flower shows, South of England & Surrey County shows etc. Since 1998 I have been self-employed, working as a Head Gardener and in private gardens . Through the RHS Advisory Department at Wisley I advise on horticultural problems in members gardens, including pest & disease problems, lawn-care advice, pruning of wisterias, fruit trees, roses, wildlife gardening, growing fruit & vegetables, creating wildflower meadows, identifying plants and control of pernicious weeds. Autumn 2016 finds me at the Autumn Flower Show 6-8 of September at RHS Wisley and Taste of Autumn Sunday 23rd of October. Sunday 11th of September I am cycling from London to Brighton for Perennial ( Gardeners Benevolent Fund) who helped me when I broke my leg badly in 2014. Had the plate removed in February this year. My Just Giving page is Perennial is a Fabulous Charity who help anyone working in horticulture. I didn't think I would need their help at the age of 52! They were brilliant and helped us as a family. It's my turn to repay their help and others too! John Ambrose and I have raised over £ 2000.00 thank you all. I am an extremely lucky guy who loves what I do and the trade called Horticulture!

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4th Nov 2016
Thanks for voting!
I have fig tree in a very large pot I got one fig on it this year do I need to do anything with it over the winter
Peter Mills
13th Nov 2016
Thanks for voting!
Hi janevalv59,
Depending where you are in the country, just protect from the worst frosts with fleece held on with clothes pegs. If possible move to a sheltered, sunny position. Next spring water in some tomato feed on a fortnightly basis.
Kind regards Peter
28th Oct 2016
Thanks for voting!
Peter, please solve the mystery of what beast bites little holes in my chilli plant leaves.
Peter Mills
13th Nov 2016
Thanks for voting!
Hi marydennis,
Holes in chilli leaves are likely to be either caterpillars or slugs. Check at night with a torch to find the culprit!
Good hunting.
Kind regards Peter
22nd Oct 2016
Thanks for voting!
Hi Peter, I am fairly new to gardening and have relied on garden centre stock such as shrubs up to now to fill my garden.
I have decided to try growing from seed. I've bought some sweet pea seeds. Followed the instructions, sown them and put them in a cold frame. My question is this. Do I leave them completely alone in the cold frame with the lid down until they germinate, or do I give them air and water and lift the lid of the cold frame yet. Thanks for your help.
Peter Mills
22nd Oct 2016
Thanks for voting!
Hi ApolloFly,
I germinate sweet pea seeds with warmth to start them off. 15-18°C. Normally germinate in a few days to a week. Then move to the cold frame. Keep protected from mice and voles!
Kind regards Peter
22nd Oct 2016
Thanks for voting!
Hello Peter, I have two varieties of raspberries - early ones and autumn fruiting ones. They both need pruning. Am I right in thinking you leave one new growth stem on the earlies and cut all the stems down on the autumn fruiting ones? Many thanks
Peter Mills
22nd Oct 2016
Thanks for voting!
Hi Marley,
You've got it right! I sometimes leave some good strong autumn canes to fruit in early summer and get two helpings!
Mulch with compost. My favourite autumn fruiting raspberry is Joan J.
Kind regards Peter
21st Oct 2016
Thanks for voting!
Hello l planted some Box plants, ( box hedging plants ) October 2015 and l was expecting some growth this year, but there has been very little, is this is because the first year they are getting established? l was advised to feed then some meal food for the roots to get going which l did but this l did late in the season. Does anyone have advise please?
Peter Mills
22nd Oct 2016
Thanks for voting!
Hi Box,
It's been a very dry season. Next spring apply slow release fertiliser and water in. You won't get any more growth this year.
Kind regards Peter
Peter Mills
22nd Oct 2016
Thanks for voting!
Sorry Boz,
Predictive text!

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