As Summer draws to an end, it might feel a little sad to say goodbye to your bright summer borders and verdant lawn, but there’s satisfaction to be had in preparing your garden for the harsh winter months. Leaf blowers, rakes, and even the humble bin bag are your best friends in this transitional time for the gardener.
Dig up annuals and add them to the compost heap. Replant beds with winter bedding plants such as Pansies, Polyanthus and Sweet William, ready to bloom in the spring.
Cut back faded perennials to 5 cm above ground level, but don’t be too tidy – some perennials have seed heads that look attractive covered in autumn dew, and provide nourishment for birds.
Leaving fallen leaves in your borders doesn’t just look messy, it’s like putting out a welcome mat for slugs which are breeding ready to feast on your spring seedlings.
Once your borders are tidy, spread a thick layer of compost or well-rotted manure across them, then leave the worms to do the digging in on your behalf.
Autumn is a great time to pep up a tired lawn. Remove old grass clippings and moss using a spring-tine rake and add to the compost heap. You may want to start with a moss killer first if there is a large amount.
Raking up leaves may be a boring job but don’t be tempted to leave them where they are. Left in heaps on the lawn they will kill out the grass below, and provide a haven for slugs and snails. Start sweeping them up as soon as you can, and have another blast at it each week until they are all down.
Rotting leaves turn pond water stagnant and block filters on pumps. Save subsequent effort by catching leaves before they fall into your pond. Spread a fine meshed net across the surface of the water and weigh it down with rocks. The leaves can be added straight to the compost heap or collected up to make leaf mould.
Leaf mould is a miracle soil conditioner that costs nothing except patience to produce. Put the damp leaves from the above three steps in a black bin liner that has been perforated a few times with a garden fork. When it is full and firm, tie up and store it out of the way for a year, by which time the crumbly brown mould will be ready to use.
As you are clearing leaves, check that the trees in your garden are sound. Large damaged branches should only be tackled by tree surgeons, but you can use loppers to cut off splintered smaller branches. While you are doing this, check that the tree is still firmly rooted and not liable to fall during winter storms. Tree stakes shouldn’t be wobbly, either, so make sure they are still in good shape.
As the days shorten, sunlight is increasingly valuable. Removing the shade paint in your greenhouse will maximise the light available to your plants. Scrubbing with hot water will bring the glass up sparkling clean. Pay attention to trapped leaves in gutters, which will prevent rain water escaping from the roof, and use this opportunity to replace any damaged glass too.
Remove the plants before sweeping out any plant debris. Using a hot solution of garden disinfectant, clean greenhouse paths and staging, and inside the glass. Ventilate well over the next couple of days to dry it thoroughly.
In the winter months make an effort to wash out pots and seed trays in preparation for the spring planting. Don’t forget that you can still sow plenty of vegetables to grow in winter, including onions and shallots, garlic, perpetual spinach and broad beans.