With the days growing shorter and temperatures falling, now is the perfect opportunity to go outdoors, tend to those autumn jobs and get your garden ready for winter.
What can I do with my garden in autumn?
Autumn is a tricky time of year in the gardening world. The once bright perennials have died back, leaves are falling and in general, the garden can look a bit of a mess. Tackling a little light pruning, clearing and tidying is well worth the effort and will save you precious time in spring.
Here’s a list of jobs you can tackle over the next few weeks to get your growing space in tip-top condition for the new year:
1. Tie back and prune
If you’re wondering what to cut back in your autumn garden read on! Tie back and prune climbing plants such as vines. You can also prune fruit bushes and trees like apple and pear to encourage the replacement of old shoots with healthy new growth. It’s also a great time to take cuttings from fruit bushes such as blackcurrant and gooseberry, in a few years you’ll have a good-sized, fruit-bearing plant.
Cut any finished perennials back to ground level but leave those that have decorative seed heads such as alliums, teasels, hydrangea and Erygium (sea holly). They provide food for birds and the long stems create shelter for insects. You can cut them down in spring.
You can also cut back irises, lilies, salvia, rudbeckia and catmint.
2. Clean and tidy
Clean and tidy the greenhouse, shed or polytunnel ready to receive spring plants. Don’t forget that you can re-use old compost too. If it looks very tired you can use it as mulch but if it’s free of roots and not compacted, it’ll be perfect in next year’s pots.
Autumn is a great time to clean out storage boxes and pack away garden furniture cushions if you haven’t already. Stack pots that housed summer flowers or plant some autumn and winter flowering blooms instead.
Rake up any leaves from deciduous trees. You’ll need to do this a few times as more leaves fall but it’s worth keeping on top of it to prevent damage to grass and other plants. Rotted leaf matter makes excellent compost so add it to your existing compost heap or consider building one. You can also use leaves as mulch.
3. Tackle light weeding
Tackle light weeding now and it will save you precious time in spring. Weeding can burn between 200-400 calories an hour and is a great way to get those endorphins flowing.
It’s surprising how many dandelions there seem to be in autumn so hooking them out now will prevent the inevitable multiplication if they go on to flower next year.
4. Mulch, mulch, mulch
Mulching is used to retain moisture, reduce weed growth and promote healthy soil. This is the perfect time of year for mulching where there is still some warmth in the soil and plenty of moisture which you can trap beneath a cosy blanket of mulch.
Mulch is dead, organic plant material that provides precious nutrients to the soil as it decays. You can use wood chips, grass cuttings and fallen leaves. Add a layer of mulch around trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials.
5. Plant winter vegetables
If you’re growing winter vegetables, now is the time to sow radishes, broad beans, rocket and even winter lettuce. Plant onions, garlic and shallots in well-drained soil or raised beds and cover with fleece for extra protection from the elements.
6. Clear gutters
Clear gutters on garden buildings and remove any fallen leaves, moss and other debris that may have accumulated. Make any repairs that might be needed and check gutters are secured adequately. If you decide to replace some gutters here’s how to repurpose the old ones to make a gutter planter box.
It’s also a good time to lag outdoor water pipes to prevent them from freezing in the depths of winter.
7. Tidy your tools
You won’t be using your garden tools much over winter so rather than wait until spring, organise your most useful gardening implements so they can be easily reached next year. Give everything a good clean and apply any oil to shears or secateurs if needed.
It’s a great time to give the lawnmower a little TLC too.
8. Protect and insulate
Many plants will overwinter just fine, but it’s a good idea to move tender plants into a greenhouse or add some insulation to those which will bear the brunt of the winter chill. You can wrap horticultural fleece or bubble-wrap around plant pots and re-use it each year.
It’s also a good idea to net any hardy brassicas to stop those hungry pigeons from feasting on them throughout winter.
9. Plant spring-flowering bulbs
Plant spring-flowering bulbs now for a welcoming burst of colour next year. You can plant them in pots or directly into the ground while the soil is still warm. Here’s a list of beautiful flowers that will illuminate your garden in spring:
- Grape hyacinths
Try grouping different coloured tulips in pots for a dramatic display of colour.
10. The final cut
Give the grass one last cut before winter sets in. Choose a dry day and don’t be tempted to cut the grass too short. It needs some length to help it soak up as much of the weak winter sun as possible.
You might also like 10 of the best plants for winter garden colour.