Summer has gone, alas, and autumn is well underway; it’s now time to think about preparing your garden for winter ahead.
Autumn is a busy time in the garden, with beds once full of magnificent flowers and verdant foliage now looking a little sorry for themselves. – What’s needed is a good autumn clean up – essential for the long term health of your garden and not difficult or very time-consuming.
13 simple but important things to do:
#1 Canes -Take down vegetable patch canes and trellises left over from growing this year’s beans and tomatoes. Give them a good wash and clean before storing them in the shed. This will help get rid of any lingering pathogens.
#2 Debris – Remove spent vegetable plants and old fallen fruit, as well as any diseased plants from your beds, and dispose of them properly. Healthy plant material can go onto the compost heap.
#3 Disease – Any plants displaying signs of disease should be disposed of by burning, or if that is not possible, into the rubbish bin. Adding these to your compost heap risks re-infecting the garden next year with the same diseases so it pays to be vigilant.
#4 Weeds – Now the soil in soft and moist it’s an ideal time to finally get rid of the weeds you thought you had removed back in the spring and summer. Any shallow rooted annuals can simply be removed by lightly hoeing.
The best way is to loosen the soil around them with a garden fork and prise out carefully. Be sure to remove every last bit of the root or it will return. More established weeds with long taproots will require a bit more elbow grease.
#5 Compost – autumn is a good time to clear out last years compost bin and spread what’s left around the garden. If you don’t have a compost bin it’s a good time to make one, especially as you now have a load of new garden waste from this summers growth. It’s also a good time to give your compost heap some additional nitrogen.
Remember you can never have too much compost!
Outside – It’s time to remove any shade paint you added over the summer along with any moss. This is best done with some hot water and a bit of elbow grease. Replace any damaged or broken glass.
Inside – Cleaning out the inside is very important to minimise any risk of overwintering diseases and pests. Clean out any plant debris, then thoroughly disinfect your staging tables, paths and internal glass. You can simply use hot soapy water and a little garden disinfectant, such as Jeyes fluid. Once you have completed this, leave windows and slats open for a couple of days to properly ventilate and dry the greenhouse.
#7 Pots – Take some time to wash out pots and seed trays in readiness for next year. You’ll be glad you did come spring.
#8 Borders – Dig up annuals and, if healthy and showing no sign of disease, add them to the compost heap. Don’t forget you can plant winter borders with pansies and wallflowers etc. Cut back faded perennials.
#9 Re-arrange and divide – Now is a great time (while the soil is still warm) to move any poorly positioned plants and divide overgrown perennials around the garden.
Some gardeners like to leave seed heads and dried foliage for winter interest and to feed the birds.
Once your borders are clean and tidy you should add a thick layer of compost, or well rotted manure. No need to dig it in – it gives the worms something to do!
Note: Don’t do this too early or you’ll provide winter shelter for rodents; wait until the ground freezes.
#10 Garden equipment – It’s time to do make sure the lawnmower is in good working order before you clean and put away for the season. Get it serviced ready for next spring – you will be glad you did. Secateurs and shears will need sharpening and a little oil applied to moving parts (you can easily do this yourself).
Finally the garden spade, fork and other tools should be cleaned, dried and a little oil added to any moving or metal parts to prevent potential rust. Wooden handles will benefit from a little linseed oil for protection.
#11 Pond – You can minimise the risk of decomposing leaves by adding a fine mesh net across the pond but, I prefer to leave mine open. Yes it means more work come autumn but it looks more natural plus I don’t have any rare and expensive fish to protect. Decomposing leaves can block any pump filters you have in place.
Once again any leaves can go straight on the leaf pile.
#12 Spring bulbs – It is still a good time to plant spring-flowering bulbs in your beds, borders, lawn, hanging baskets and pots before the ground freezes hard.
Crocuses, daffodils, alliums, tulips, winter aconites, dwarf iris… the list is endless… can all be planted until the end of autumn.
#13 Filling gaps – It’s a good time to fill in gaps with new shrubs, trees, grasses and perennials, while the soil is still warm and soft new plants will be able to establish themselves before winter sets in.
When you have done all that take a well deserved holiday in the sun. Or if that’s not going to happen at least sit back with a coffee and a nice piece of cake.