It's fair to say that many of us have enjoyed more time in the garden over the last year. It has been listed as the second most popular lockdown activity after watching TV, according to a survey by Global Data.
As the cooler days start to creep in, you may feel a little reluctant to venture outside, but keeping up with gardening tasks now will help keep your garden all things bright and beautiful when spring rolls back around. Here are some things you need to do in the garden now so that you are prepared for the winter months ahead.
1. Make leaf mould
Leaf mould is an excellent way to recycle fallen leaves and add structure to your soil. You can create a large bin with wire mesh and wooden stakes if you find a sheltered spot in your garden. Fill with leaves, sprinkle with water, and then leave.
When the leaves are crumbly, spread them as a mulch along your borders. Compared to oak, alder, beech, and hornbeam, sycamore, walnut, horse chestnut, and sweet chestnut take a little longer to rot. In general, the process takes about two years if you shred the leaves first.
2. Clear out compost bins
When you clear your vegetable plots and borders in late autumn, you create a lot of plant material for your compost pile. Make room for this year's waste by clearing out last year's compost and using it around the garden.
Turn the compost to improve decomposition and create a new heap next to it to add fresh organic matter. Compost can never be too much.
3. Planting bulbs in winter
Although spring bulbs have long since flowered and died back, other flowering bulbs like lilies bloomed more recently. Three to four weeks after that glorious display, it’s time to dig up and divide any plants that appeared crowded or straggly during the growing season.
For spring bulbs, this might mean some guesswork to determine location. Other plants will be more obvious. Dig 4-8 inches away from the plant’s growing stalk, carefully loosening the soil. Lift bulbs gently and separate bulblets for immediate transplanting elsewhere in the garden.
If you previously dug up your spring bulbs for dividing, now is the time to plant them again. Daffodils, tulips and crocuses are all ready to go back into the soil for another year.
4. Maintain garden equipment
To ensure that your lawnmower is in excellent condition when you need it next spring, it's well worth sending it for service before storing it for the winter. If not give it a good clean removing rogue grass cuttings.
Shears and secateurs need sharpening - do this yourself or send them away - while spades, forks, and other tools can benefit from a good wash. To prevent rust, dry everything thoroughly and oil metal parts. Linseed oil can be used to clean and protect wooden handles - but be careful when disposing of rags, as linseed oil can combust as it dries.
5. Lawn enforcement
Use a spring-tined rake to remove thatch and moss and add them to the compost pile. You may want to use a moss killer on your lawn first if there is a lot of moss. After applying a sandy top dressing, apply an autumn lawn feed to prepare your lawn for winter.
Make 10 cm intervals of deep holes with the prongs of a garden fork around paths and play areas to improve drainage. The winter is a great time to lay new turf, giving it plenty of time to establish before next summer.
6. Tidy up borders
Plant pansies, Bellis daisies, and wallflowers in your beds next spring to ensure a vibrant display. Trim faded perennials to 5 cm above ground level, but don't be too tidy - attractive seed heads are wonderful for insects, look wonderful covered in autumn dew, and provide handsome winter silhouettes.
As soon as your borders are clean and tidy, spread a thick layer of compost, bark chips, or well-rotted manure. You don't have to dig it in; let the worms do the hard work for you.
7. Protect your plants
Prepare your more tender plants for the colder weather.
Put your tender perennials, like fuchsias, undercover for the winter to prevent them from dying. Cut them back to half their height to remove leafy growth that would go mouldy in winter. Pick them up from borders, pot them up, and move them under shelter, either indoors or in a heated greenhouse.
Freesias and Dahlias, which are tender bulbs, must also be moved. Dig them up eight weeks after the flowers have died down, allow the bulbs to dry, and then knock the soil or compost from them. Plant them the following season by storing them in shallow trays in a dark, cool, but frost-free shed. Check them regularly and dispose of any that are showing signs of rotting.
8. Store garden furniture
It might sound obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people neglect this step until it's too late. Left to the elements, sun umbrellas will become discoloured, and barbecues begin to rust. Suffering from a lack of garden storage? Consider purchasing protective covers - they're relatively cheap, and a definite investment.
9. Insuring your garden items
If you have home contents insured with Saga you are covered up to £1,000 for loss or damage to your plants, lawns, shrubs and garden contents within the property. If you’ve decked out your garden with the latest kit this summer, you might be interested to know that we also offer a higher option of up to £5,000 cover. This includes all of the above, plus we'll even cover professional design fees and expenses where required. Call us on 0800 068 3410 if you'd like to arrange this cover.
Saga Home Insurance policies are unique products designed by us specifically for our customers. They are underwritten by a number of carefully selected insurers that provide our high standards of quality and service. We currently have a 20% cashback offer for new policies taken out for home insurance. T&C apply. Find out more about our cashback offer.
10. Net ponds
Decomposing leaves foul your pond water and clog your pumps' filters. Catch falling leaves, overgrown plants, or weeds before they hit your pond to save time and effort later.
Spread a fine-mesh net across the pond and secure it with bricks. Remove any leaves that fall on it and add them to your leaf mould bin or compost heap.
Your autumn garden is now clean, tidy, and ready for winter. Besides the view from your house is much more pleasant, you'll have a head start when spring arrives and it's time to start growing again.