Our gardening expert Victoria Truman tells us how to keep the winter winds at bay

For many gardeners, the month of September begins the downhill slide into off season, but your garden is hardier than you think. There are plenty of gardening tasks for September that will keep your flower and vegetable gardens going longer, as well as opportunities to get a head start on next year’s plans.

• Seed an autumn crop of peas and spinach, and keep harvesting. There’s always something to make with courgettes.
• Pick herbs for fresh use and for drying. Harvesting will keep them growing longer.
• Order spring bulbs for planting in
the autumn
• Check that your mulch hasn’t decomposed and add more as needed.
• Spread a mid-season layer of
compost or manure.
• Keep deadheading and harvesting.
• Leave some annual seeds to self-sow.
• Start saving seeds and taking cuttings.
• Remove any diseased foliage now,
so it doesn’t get lost in the fall leaves.
• Prune summer flowering shrubs as
the flowers fade.
• Trim and feed hanging baskets
to prolong their beauty.
• Take pictures of your garden at peak, especially of container combinations you’d like to repeat.
• Keep everything watered. Use a seaweed and feed combination at this time of year which gives all the fl owering plants, shrubs and young trees a pick me up.

I have been working this month in a garden where the design called for as much usage of the space as possible. The clients’ brief was to create an English cottage garden with space for the adults to sit and relax whilst the youngest members play energetically but safely.

So how do you go about planning a family garden? In large gardens, different areas can be carved out to accommodate everyone’s needs, but in smaller gardens the layout needs to be more creative. There are a few key elements to bear in mind before you tackle your design. Since children’s tastes change rapidly, you need to be adaptable. Once something has fallen out of favour, be unsentimental and find a good home for it. This means your design needs to be flexible.

The garden is the ideal place to allow children to take some risks – a familiar yet ever-changing environment where they can explore the natural world. Wildflower turf provides an easy and cost effective way of achieving biodiversity, colour from spring to autumn, visual interest and low maintenance.

Consider having a natural play den weaved in, in which your children can play. Vegetables grown in raised beds, with apple trees behind on frames using any fencing as support, maximises the space. A central pergola with a mass of climbers provides a shaded sitting and dining area for the family and a corner terrace to catch the last rays of the evening sun, enveloped with a scented star jasmine.