Goodbye summer, hello planting season

Saying goodbye to the warmer summer months is never easy. Autumn brings with it thoughts of staying warm indoors as the nights draw in and temperatures begin to drop.

But there is always a silver lining, and for our team at Urban Green Newcastle the autumn months are the perfect time for us to get out and get planting!

We’ve been speaking to Ed Chivers, Project Manager for Beelines North East, and Theodore Carpenter, one of our Community Gardeners, to find out more about what’s happening across the city’s green spaces this planting season and get some tips for home gardeners.

The beginning of this year’s planting season also coincides with The Great Big Green Week (24 September – 02 October); the UK’s biggest celebration of community action to tackle climate change and protect nature. There are lots of free events taking place all week across Newcastle to inspire action on climate change and encourage more people to care for the natural world and our green spaces. Learn more about Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s new Nextdoor Nature project, join a family crafting session in Leazes Park, or join us in Nuns Moor Park to take part in lots of nature-themed activities. Find out more by visiting The Great Big Green Week website.

Why do we plant trees and bulbs in the autumn?

Planting season – particularly for trees and bulbs – begins in the autumn and leads into the winter months. It’s a time when we see more wet weather, which helps trees and bulbs to germinate and establish roots.

Did you know, by giving plants time to establish a root system over the winter, it means they’re more tolerant to periods of drought, particularly in the spring and summer, as they can seek out water deeper in the soil.

This planting season, you can expect to see Urban Green Newcastle’s rangers doing a lot of work across many of Newcastle’s parks.

What planting is taking place in the city’s parks this year?

As part of the Beelines North East project we’re delivering with Northumberland Wildlife Trust – which aims to create nectar-rich public sites across the city and wider region – you can expect to see more planting in some of the city’s woodland denes.

We’re putting a lot of focus on improving the woodland understory (the smaller plants and trees below the canopy) because areas that are bare beneath tree canopies aren’t great for wildlife. There’ll be a lot of tree planting taking place and we’ll be letting people know how they can join in.

Our rangers will also be planting bulbs across many of the city’s 33 parks, including native daffodils, crocuses, and English Bluebells. Again, there’ll be lots of opportunities for people to join in the planting and add a pop of colour to the city’s green spaces.

If you’re a regular visitor to Exhibition Park, expect to see lots of new bluebells underneath the woodland canopy. This will be a big project and we’re hoping to get lots of people involved, particularly students and people new to the city as it will be a great way to introduce them to Exhibition Park and show the positive impact of volunteering with us.

Heaton Park is another green space in the city that will look very different after planting season. We’ll be planting new trees there, creating a pollinator shrub border, and laying 1,500 square metres of wildflower.

We’re also planting some summer perennials ready for next year in Leazes Park, Jesmond Dene and Walker Park. Expect to enjoy monarda, agastache, and helenium as they’ll all be flowering this year too.

How can you get involved with Urban Green’s planting season?

If you would like to support with any of the planting this autumn/winter, please sign up to be an Urban Green Newcastle volunteer. We’ll then be in touch with details of the various planting sessions.

Our top tips for planting at home

Of course planting season isn’t just for big green spaces like Newcastle’s parks. It’s a time when lots of home gardeners and growers start work on their own patch of earth, ready for spring next year.

Below are some helpful hints and tips to ensure you have a successful planting season at home.

Planting spring bulbs
Autumn crocus, fritillaria, meadow saffron (Colchium), snowdrops (Galanthus), and daffodil (Narcissus) will all bloom well in the spring when planted in grassland during the autumn. Plant them at least 30cm deep, and don’t forget to stamp over the ground to stop animals digging them up.

Location, location, location
It’s important to plant your spring bulbs in the right spot. Avoid any desire lines (ground which people often walk across) and look for shady spots, for example under a tree.

Use recycled water
New bulbs need lots of water, so do your bit for the environment by recycling water to keep your plants hydrated. Have you thought about investing in a water butt, or using left over washing-up water? You could even recycle water by scooping it from the bath.

Propagate flowering shrubs by taking cuttings
Fuschia, beardtongue (Penstemon), and common sage (Salvia) can be propagated this way. Trim about 5-10cm off the top of a young, non-flowered stem – just below the node. Remove the lower leaves, dip it in hormone rooting powder, and plant it in compost (ideally mixed with perlite). Water them gently and put a see through cover over them before placing them in a greenhouse, or on your kitchen windowsill.

Deadheading plants to prolong flowering
Deadheading roses can prolong the flowering season until October. You can do this by checking if the petals fall off in your hands. If they do then they can be trimmed back to the next flower bud. If the whole truss (or cluster) of flowers has died, then prune that back to the next leaf.

You can also deadhead annuals such as Cosmos and Marigolds to prolong the flowering season. Or, you can leave them and let them develop seeds that will spread.

Looking after your lawn
You might be tempted to mow your lawn before the wet weather sets in, but doing it too early could create holes that need patching up if the ground is still dry. If it looks too dry, wait for rain. It’s much better for the environment too.