It’s nearly November and there’s no way we can avoid it – winter is definitely on its way.
It’s great to cosy up and hibernate over the next few months but, before you get too comfy, take some time to make sure your garden is prepared for the coming chill.
Whether it’s a small patch with just a few plants, or a spacious ‘outdoor room’ for all the family, there are a few simple jobs you can tackle at this time of year that will ensure your garden survives and thrives into next spring.
1. Tidy up your borders
Late summer is when the weeds go crazy and the seasonal bedding plants put on their final show. Now, everything is probably looking a bit past its best. Don’t be too cautious – give it all a good clean out. Dig up the annuals, take out the weeds and tidy up those faded perennials.
2. To cut back or not to cut back?
There are two schools of thought when it comes to autumn pruning of perennials. Some like to cut back as soon as possible to encourage maximum growth next season. If you’re doing this, make sure to cut just above any young growth. You can easily leave attractive flower heads and dead stems for a few months – they can look stunning when frosted over.
If you want to attract birds and insects over the winter, you could leave serious pruning until spring. Just trim plants back a bit for appearance’s sake.
3. Carpet with compost
Cutting back your plants will create lots of new content for your compost bin. So now’s the time to make use of the organic material that’s been composting in there over the past year. Take it out and spread it over your borders to provide much-needed winter sustenance and protect delicate plants and bulbs against frost.
4. Think about winter containers
Container gardening isn’t just for summer. If you only have a patio or balcony to play with, you can still create some colourful and fragrant winter displays in pots. Heathers, primroses and ferns all look their best at this time of year, although make sure to use ericaceous compost when potting up heathers. And that classic Christmas combination of holly and ivy is ideal for a winter container.
5. Cover your pond
It’s a good idea to cover garden ponds with a layer of netting in autumn to stop leaves and rotting vegetation from clogging up your pump and fouling the water. It’s unlikely that your pond will freeze over in a typical British winter unless it is very shallow, but you could always invest in a pond de-icer if you’re worried about your fish in the event of a big freeze.
6. Give your lawn some TLC
If your lawn is still growing, get rid of thatch and moss with a lawn rake and put it on the compost heap. Aerating your lawn will allow more air, water and nutrients to reach the grass roots and help with growth. Use a lawn aerator or spike with a garden fork, then apply top dressing followed by an autumn lawn feed.
7. Make leaf mould
Leaf mould is an excellent way to recycle fallen autumn leaves and, equally importantly, it’s something the kids can help you with! Get them to clear the leaves off the lawn and pile them in a bin made from wooden stakes and wire mesh. Sprinkle with water and leave for a couple of years for the leaves to turn into a lovely, crumbly, nutrient-rich mulch for your borders.
8. Enjoy the view
If you have a good garden view from your living room, plan your garden to give you a colourful display when you’re looking out. Primroses and snowdrops are great in borders, winter jasmine puts on a stunning display climbing over fences and walls, and dogwood is grown for its colourful red or yellow bare stems in winter.
For more tips and expert advice, check out the Royal Horticultural Society’s website: www.rhs.org.uk.