How to Prepare Your Garden for Autumn
Well it appears that we have well and truly waved ‘goodbye’ to summer weather! The chill in the air and the emerging golden, red and brown hues that have replaced the bright colours of the warmer months all signify that Autumn is upon us.
For many, it’s the favourite time of year; the days are still bright, the light takes on that cosy yellow quality, the blankets come out, and the candles get lit. It’s also time for gardeners up and down the country to tend to their beloved outdoor space, and prepare it for the colder, darker months.
In this blog, we aim to provide you with the hints and tips for clearing up your garden and getting it ready for the next growing season.
Up the Annuals
Many us rely on annual plants such as sweet peas, snap dragons and poppies, to inject some vibrant colour into our gardens. While you might think it’s odd to dig them up completely after they were such a beautiful addition to your garden – they don’t fare well throughout the cold months, and often prove difficult to maintain.
It makes better sense to dig them up and add to your compost pile.
Fertilise Your Lawn
The summer months can often leave our lawns a little worse for wear, and now is the time to nurture it. By adding fertiliser to your lawn, you are providing it with the vital nutrients that encourage and maintain healthy growth; and ensure it is in tip top condition when the warmer weather comes back around again.
The process of caring for your lawn involves raking (also known as scarifying) to reduce thatch levels, before aerating with a tool such as a garden fork (only required every other year). This allows better movements of water and air in the root structure and top dressing with well-rotted organic matter (compost), loam and sand.
Cover Your Pond
Essentially, this is a time-saving exercise. The winter months bring with them, gusts, gales and driving rain, which often results in ponds becoming clogged with all sorts of garden matter that can not only be hard work to clear but also rot, looking and smelling undesirable.
By clearing and covering your pond in early autumn, you lessen your workload when Spring rolls around. By covering your pond, you also give any wildlife a chance to survive as it minimises the chance of it freezing over completely.
Weeds, the gardener’s arch-enemy. Having a serious de-weed is another time-saving exercise; weeding before the weather takes a turn means that you won’t have a huge task on your hands once you can get back to gardening in the Spring.
Whether you are clearing the lawn, flower beds, or those pesky weeds that appear between cracks in the patio – use a combination of weed killer and elbow grease, and make sure you pick solutions that won’t negatively impact other plants.
Cut Back Perennials
Hooray for perennials, we can always rely on them to stick with us all year round. However, their hardy nature can often see them spreading, and they can often end up taking over the garden completely! To prevent this perennial domination, cut them back to soil level and ensure that you collect and dispose of all of the clippings.
Cover crops are used to prevent soil erosion during the winter months, and can also help to reduce the way that soil quality and fertility is negatively impacted by the cold weather. They increase the organic matter and structure of the soil in your garden, and reduce the amount that you might otherwise spend on fertiliser products.
Popular cover crops include – annual rye grass, buck wheat, red clover and hairy vetch.
Protect Young Trees
Quite similar to children, young plants and trees need protection and attention as they grow and mature; and this is especially true during the winter months when the weather can become cold and bitter.
You can protect them by using materials such as fleece, straw, bracken and hessian, held in place by a wire netting structure; many gardeners often also choose to wrap plants in clear polythene to prevent plants rotting from the wet weather.
Compost & Mulch
Give your flower beds a little extra TLC by laying down a couple of inches of compost, followed by a layer of mulch. This act of love means that your plants are protected from anything that wants to nibble on them whilst also feeding them an abundance of vitamins and nutrients.
As the days become shorter, you need to ensure that you are maximising the light in your greenhouse. If you applied shade paint as a protective measure in the summer months, this should be removed – usually done so with some hot water and elbow grease.
A general tidy and clean-up is advised to prevent diseases and pests being harboured; remove all of the plants before sweeping and disinfecting the glass, path, and staging. The greenhouse will need to be ventilated for the following days to ensure that it dries out thoroughly.
This activity will also highlight any vulnerable areas that may be damaged further in the harsh winter weather.
By putting in the hours during the early months of autumn, you can spend the winter planning all the new shrubs and flowers that you can introduce to your garden, ready to bloom next year, if you try hard enough – you can almost smell spring in the air!