Country Gardener

Widely regarded as the authority on gardening in the south west

Preparing your garden for winter

It won’t be too long now before winter comes in with a rattle, so the moment of ‘putting the garden to bed’ is coming. The metaphorical tucking in moment approaches.

Gardeners are again being urged to spend the first weeks of October giving their gardens some urgent attention to prepare for autumn and the colder months.

We are very lucky in the South West that when preparing the garden for winter we do not have to put the garden totally ‘to bed’ as many others. Often plants in mild winters will continue to grow well into December.

Although a good tidy up in the garden will make it look smart and neat, often wildlife, especially birds appreciate it if we leave seed heads on plants for them to eat during the winter and indeed some plants, even when dormant, look spectacular.

The soil at this time of the year is still warm so finish off planting evergreens such as conifers. It is also the perfect time to get soil prepared for planting deciduous trees and shrubs.

Dig in lots of organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure. In permanent borders, weed and top dress between the plants with any type of mulch.

This can be compost, bark or any organic material that will suppress the weeds and keep the moisture in the ground. If you have a ‘dry’ garden you could use a gravel mulch.

Do rake up leaves from the lawn and borders and compost them. Leaves make one of the best composts (leaf mould). If you don’t have enough leaves, ask your neighbours for theirs, compost them in a separate heap and you will be rewarded next year with a brown golden material suitable for digging into the ground or top dressing borders.

Plant bulbs for a spring display. By the time spring comes around you will have forgotten about them and will be so surprised when they flower and brighten up the garden in spring. Plant bulbs then cover the ground around them with a layer of gravel or grit. This stops them digging them up. Eventually the grit will disappear into the soil but just top it up as needed.

Grass areas need a bit of care at this time of the year if you want them to look their best next year. Rake off leaves from the lawn. Keep cutting if needed but raise the blades so you do not scalp the grass. Lawn roots like the soil to be free draining so aerate your lawn either with a machine or, if you have a small lawn, with a garden fork pushed in as far as you can. You can fill in the holes with a gritty compost to aid drainage.

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Net the pond

If you’re fortunate enough to have a pond, cover it with a net. Forget and you’ll be fishing out soggy plants all winter.

Clean and clear

Just as you would spring clean your house, don’t forget to autumn clean your garden. Cut back plants and clear out the shed and greenhouse before you store everything for winter.

It is also a good time to pressure wash the patio or scrub down the decking. This will stop excessive dirt and grime build up occurring over the wet winter months.

Protect your pots

Store both your empty and in-use pots correctly over the winter months. Insulate with either hay, cardboard or bubble wrap and make sure you raise all in-use pots off the ground to prevent them from getting waterlogged during rainy weather.

Protect your plants

The first frost of the year can arrive without any warning and can kill your favourite foliage. If you have any plants you know are susceptible to cold weather, get them in the greenhouse or in your conservatory.

Clear away garden items

Don’t forget to pack away any garden items that may get damaged by the cold weather. If your furniture or BBQ won’t fit in the shed, make sure they’re covered up properly.

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