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tara onions

By Tara Lissner, Swiss Gardening School

This perfect light, golden tones all around and cooler temperatures gently ease us into this new season of Autumn. The summer bedding is fading but trying to hang on continuing to perform in the sunshine, the summer veggie plot is almost at an end with the soft herbs going to seed and the green tomatoes fooling us into thinking that they may ripen on the vine (they will not), the lawn is showing signs of worm casings and a scattering of colourful leaves greets us ever morning – a time of change.

It has to be said that this summer was really fantastic, long days of warm sunshine, almost enough rain to keep the lawn green and that perfect blue sky. A hot summer like this reminds me to take a closer look at my garden. It brings to the forefront the areas I will need to concentrate on when the guests have departed and the rosé is finished. And so the list begins; add even more mulch to keep greater moisture in the beds, explore even more fully hardy but drought resistant perennials to reduce watering, reconsider the choice of planting for the vegetable plot when a holiday is planned – goodness I’m beginning to see a pattern, all of these issues revolve around water, the lack of rain and the need to irrigate. This may have something perhaps everything to do with the fact that I have a south facing garden on a hill with clay soil. Oh the work!

I’ve made reasonable progress in certain areas. I try to only keep large pots on my terrace and I really do try to plant sun loving summer bedding in them but it is difficult sometimes to resist the draw of the tender, thirsty, pretty flowers in all their beauty at the garden center. I’ve decided to think about not placing hanging baskets at my front door next year. Even with a paid neighbourhood teenager around to water during my absences it only takes a few days of intense heat for the soil to become parched and the plants to wilt. Plants are of course very resilient, they will come back if you drench the soil and cut off the dead leaves and flowers but it will take a number of weeks and that is no longer time that I’m willing to waste looking at shriveled baskets. Next year I think I’ll have to send them to a friend for a holiday instead. I have transformed a difficult, steep area of lawn into a wildflower meadow with reasonable success. The beauty of it is mowing only twice a year, the down side is that it can look a little scruffy. On scruffy days I remind myself how happy the insects are and how happy I am to have a space that I don’t have to water or fertilize and, on sunny days, I enjoy the beauty of the great variety of flowers standing tall in the sunshine busy with pollinating insects.

I’ve had the most wonderful broccoli this year which was quite the surprise as it was not the variety I was expecting. Very easy to grow from seed however the mature plants do need plenty of space between each other so read the planting distances on the seed packet with care and stick to them. The result was fantastic with the tastiest broccoli I every eaten. Even now with the final few branches going over, covered with yellow flowers, the bees and other insects are having a field day.

Clear out your veggies beds now in the sunshine, it is no fun to do it on a chilly and damp Saturday afternoon. Consider what you could plant now for harvest in the late spring, garlic, onions and shallots are very easy and predictable. Think about transforming an area into a permanent bed of strawberries or blueberries. Long term it reduces your workload and short term you get berries.

Cleaning, raking, sweeping, collecting, clearing, composting all words of action in the garden at this time of year. I’ve decided to ease up on the action this autumn. There are those essential jobs that I will tend to such as clearing the summer bedding, cleaning up the veggie beds and raking the leaves from the lawn but there are other jobs that I will leave to spring. I’ll wait to cut back the perennials and leave them for their structure and their seeds for the birds, I’ll also gather heaps of leaves into the corner of the garden near the compost to create shelter for garden friends like hedgehogs.

Even though recent days have been warm and sunny and you like me have probably been enjoying the summer flowers I’m afraid to say that it is time to dig them up and add them to the compost heap. This has got to be one job I dislike most – it really means the end of summer and is one of the saddest days in the garden. Never one to be sad for too long, this gives me the opportunity to consider the vast array of bulbs available everywhere at the moment. If you’d like some colour next spring go and buy some bulbs this weekend. I find tulips work best in pots, they have a tendency to give only one good year of fantastic flowers and then they seem to sulk and not perform in subsequent years. Pot them up, enjoy them, add them to the compost and try a different variety next year. Daffodils perform year after year, plant them in drifts in the lawn or in a bed you pass every day or even in a pot by the front door, they are sure to make you smile in the spring. There is a huge variety of height, colour and bloom time (early, mid and late season) available so get out there and plant in the sunshine – you will be rewarded in the spring.

What's On

Conservatoire & Jardin botanique de Genève
The botanical gardens of Geneva continues the celebration of their bi-centenary this year with an extensive program of events. The website is packed with information on weekly events and special exhibitions to mark the occasion. Guided tours run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays until the end of November.
Conservatoire & Jardin botanique de Genève

Guided walks of the Aubonne Arboretum, Sunday 29 October
The final guided garden walk of the season will run on Sunday 29 October at 14:00. The cost is Chf 10 and is in French. A final brunch will be held on the same day from 11:30, advance sign-up is essential. See their website for more information

Marché hebdomadaire de Gland, Wednesdays 16:00-19:00
Thanks to the popularity of the summer food market at the Gland train station the organizers will run a trial weekly market this winter. The market will take place as usual on Wednesdays with the slightly shorter timing of 16:00-19:00. The number of stalls will also be reduced from 20 to about 8 including a baker, butcher, cheese monger, fish monger, fruit and vegetable seller, of course, among others. Wishing them a successful season. See their FaceBook page for more information
Gland Winter Market

Christmas at Schilliger Garden Centre, Gland
The Gland branch of this family-run garden centre launched their Christmas display on 13 October. Seasonal Sunday openings will begin on 12 November until 17 December.

Vernissage de Noël, R. Jaggi, Trélex, 11 & 12 November, 17:00-20:00
A date for your diary is the beautiful Christmas display in Trélex at Rémy Jaggi's nursery. The flower shop is transformed into a magical space for the weekend where the talents of the team are showcased. Displays may be ordered during the weekend for dates approaching the holidays.
R. Jaggi


Our new look website is up and running and as you may have noticed we have a much reduced list of courses. We are busy this season with other projects and instead have decided to run a small number of early Saturday morning one-hour pop up sessions. See here for more details.

Author's bio


An enthusiastic, self-taught gardener, Tara Lissner is passionate about gardening and eager to share her zeal and knowledge with other gardening fans.

In 2012, she joined forces with Hester Macdonald, a British-trained landscape designer, to launch the Swiss Gardening School.

(Photo by Jean-Luc Pasquier)

Swiss Gardening School