Peter’s Autumn Gardening tips

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 has spent his life gardening, working in garden centres and advising in all aspects of gardening, wildlife, and bio-diversity in horticulture.He managed Clandon Park Garden Centre in Surrey at the age of 23 and was a gardening radio presenter with the BBC. This continued for 15 years, running live broadcasts from Chelsea & Hampton Court Flower shows, South of England & Surrey County shows.Now self-employed, Peter works on a wide variety of gardens from private to large estates and also concentrating on consultancy and advisory work to fellow gardeners. He works with the RHS Gardening Advice team at Chelsea, Hampton Court, Wisley Flower shows and is an RHS External Gardening Advisor

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