Roehampton Garden Society

It’s time for softwood herb cuttings

There’s a lot of satisfaction in having a variety of herbs around – not relying on the supermarkets. Now is the right time to take cuttings from Rosemary, Thyme and Sage plants to last throughout the year. The RGS recommends a ‘plastic bag’ greenhouse to shield cutting from draughts, particularly for ‘window sill’ growers.

Soft growth on Rosemary – ideal for cuttings.
Sage cuttings – growing well at 4 weeks old.
Cuttings thriving in a plastic bag ‘greenhouse’
  1. Prepare a pot with moist, well drained compost – a mix of peat free with grit or vermiculite, or a specialist cutting compost.
  2. Take short cuttings, 5-10 cm long from the soft new growth, remove lower leaves and put at least 3 cm into the soil. Use a rooting hormone if you wish, but most cuttings will take at this time of year without this. You can put 4 or 5 cuttings around the side of a single pot.
  3. Water well and allow to drain.
  4. Place the pot in a plastic bag which will seal at the top. This isn’t always necessary if you have a greenhouse or cold-frame. Close the bag partially – leave a small ventilation hole.
  5. Leave in a warm place – greenhouse or cold-frame is ideal, but a windowsill works. Watch for too much moisture build up – open the bag to avoid this.
  6. After 2-3 weeks remove the bag and leave in a sheltered, temperate, place. Remember to water and you should see new growth within a few weeks.

Time to take semi-ripe cuttings

If you’d like some extra plants, or want to insure against losing a precious shrub to the frost, growing a cutting or two can help. At this time of year many plants have developed short new growths that have part ripened in the late summer.

Putney Cuttings
  • Try cutting the stem at about 10cm, just below a leaf. Many gardeners like to use a full shoot of about that length, peeling gently from the main stem to create a ‘heel’, (useful for ceanothus and berberis).
  • Plant the lower 4-5 cm into a general peat-free potting compost with a good addition of light grit or other drainage material such as perlite. You can experiement with a rooting powder, but these aren’t often necessary.
  • Moisten well – but cuttings don’t need much watering and can be prone to moulds and rot if kept too wet.
  • Cuttings can often work in outdoor beds or cold frames – frost free. If you protect them under glass they will need to be hardened off before planting out.

Suitable for climbers such as Solanum and Trachelospermum, evergreen shrubs, groundcover plants, herbs and hedging – even some trees!

Read some detailed advice from the RHS here

October jobs on your allotment


Maintaining soil and structures and planning ahead

  • Continue to clear the ground of this summer’s growth, weeding as you go.
  • Turn the compost heap to speed its decomposition.
  • Compost fallen leaves in hessian bags. Compost pea and bean foliage,but leave the roots in the ground as they contain nitrogen.
  • Plan where you will grow brassicas next year. Manure the area now and lime in the spring if the ph level is below 7.
  • To maximise light levels and reduce harbouring of bugs, clean the green house with eco-friendly detergent. Garden disinfectant such as Jeyes Fluid can be used in a greenhouse or a sulphur candle if resident bugs are suspected.
  • Make a last cut on grass paths and reinstate beds where grass has encroached.
  • Apply grease bands around the trunks of fruit trees as a barrier to winter moths.
  • Order bare-rooted fruit trees to be delivered November onwards. (See guidance on website and contact Site Secretary)
  • Check that the bird netting on brassicas is secure in preparation for more wintry weather.
  • Collect seeds of plants that have not been harvested. Peas and beans save well. Collect directly from the plant on a dry day to avoid fungal rot and put straight into paper bags.

Sowing and planting

  • Winter salads and oriental greens can be sown in the green house or cold frame.
  • Sow over-wintering broad beans either directly or start under cover in pots or root-trainers.
  • Sow green manures such as rye, vetches or ryegrass to be dug in next February.
  • Plant overwintering onion sets and garlic. Soil must be well drained. Onion sets should just peep above the surface. If the ph is lower than 7 add a little calicified seaweed. Plant garlic planted 1.5- 2”deep, spaced 7” apart. Both benefit from onion fertilizer.
  • Plant daffodils, alliums and other spring bulbs for early spring flowering. (Hold off planting tulips till November.)
  • Sow sweet peas in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse for early summer flowering and showing. Sow in root trainers or 3” pots.
  • Plant out spring cabbage 6” apart.
  • Take hardwood cuttings, 1ft long, from gooseberries and currants. Plant in pots of compost.


  • Harvest winter squashes. Cut the squash carefully leaving a 2-3” stem. ‘Cure’ in a warm, dry place for 10-14 days, then in a cool, light place at around 50-55F until ready to eat. Many squash can be stored for up to 6 months.
  • Store disease-free apples, pears and potatoes in a cool, dry place.
  • Ensure carrots are protected with insect mesh as carrot flies are most damaging in late summer and autumn. Leave in the ground to harvest as needed.
  • Harvest maincrop potatoes. Check each tuber for disease or damage and do not store damaged tubers. Store in a cool, dry place. Let the tubers dry off before storing in jute, hessian or paper bags in a dark frost-free place.


  • Lift and divide rhubarb plants that have been in situ for more than 5 years or are less productive. Keep and replant the newer outside growth and discard the centre.
  • Cut down asparagus stems as they turn yellow and mulch with well-rotted manure.
  • Clear away strawberry foliage to prevent build-up of pests and diseases.

Gardening for wildlife

  • Leave decorative perennial seed heads as food and habitats for wildlife
  • Build an insect hotel or install a log pile.