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Gardening and Health

Gardening is good for our health and I have advocated that it would be good for doctors to prescribe this essential therapeutic activity for those in search of a pathway to peace and tranquillity. I was pleased to read that a Bishop was calling for Churches to encourage gardening for mental health and to provide access to gardening spaces. Research indeed shows depression, loneliness and other mental health issues can and have been addressed successfully for people of all ages when they are introduced to varying horticultural activities.

Ref Science for the Gardener Chapter 13 The Good News Is

I have always regarded October as one of the busiest months of the gardening year because we need to prepare for Spring! Yes - the New Year and Spring are fast approaching.

Clear falling leaves into plastic sacks or wire containers, it’s worth saving them for the best soil improver I know, leaf mould. Tidy ponds and cover from leaves and dig out silt and yellowing water lily leaves, reduce feeding fish. Leave any water weed cleared beside the pond to allow any wildlife to return.

With evidence of climatic change it is as I mentioned earlier in the year vital now to prepare and repair very hard and dried out soil as it begins to moisten and soften with the approach of Autumn. Add plenty of organic mulch with manure and compost to refresh the vital nitrogen cycle. Begin by spreading and digging in organic blood, fish and bone preferably in damp/wet soil. This will boost all the vital main nutrients, especially Phosphorus for strengthening cell structure and roots and Potassium for flowering. Phosphorus is not a very soluble product so will need a few months to take effect but it’s worth the effort in giving plants added strength. Check if any of your plants have unusually bending stems, a sure sign of weakness and possibly a lack of phosphorus .

Ref Science for the Gardener Chapter 7 Digging for Victory

It’s a very good time to plant new trees, hardy shrubs and hedges, especially hardy climbers, allowing them to have that valuable over wintering cold period that is known as vernalisation.

We have to plan ahead for Spring so do look for those attractive cost effective bulb offers including bulging bags of Narcissus on offer at Garden Centres. Smaller ’Tête à Têtes’ Narcissus are useful for easy planting for smaller gardens and in shallow soil beds and look positively superb in containers with plenty of well drained gritty soil.

Pruning and tidying is best done in this Autumnal period but can I suggest leaving attractive seed heads such as those found on Miscanthus Grass, Sunflower heads, Teasels, Coneflowers, Rudbeckia and Sedums for the birds searching for food in the bitter cold of Winter. A necessary caution before you start pruning is to check flower buds on Spring flowering shrubs such as Forsythia, Camellia and Magnolia that these are not accidentally removed.

Autumn is a wonderful time of the year for enjoying tree leaf colours so take a few strolls along your local paths and if you can, visit one of the local region large private gardens such as those at Forde, Abbotsbury (Dorset), National Trust Tintinhull and Knightshayes and so many others.

Any science based queries please feel free to contact me on

I have recently been commissioned to do two broadcasts for the Chard and Ilminster Newsline “Gardening for disabled and unsighted gardeners” Do please e mail me should you feel they could be of assistance and they can be e mailed as an Audio File and simply click on to listen in.

Enjoy Autumn and your gardening in one of the busiest months.

Tony Arnold MCIHort

Author Science for the Gardener

Secondary Science Resource for RHS Schools Gardening

Autumn Anemone Japonica


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