23/10/2015 12:00 AM
With the Harvest Festival services done and dusted for the year and all those glorious colourful summer blooms fast becoming a distant faded memory, it is time to start preparing the garden for the onset of winter. This blog post provides a list of essential jobs that need to be carried out to keep things shipshape and ready for the burst of activity next spring!
Check through any borders in the garden and dig up any annual plants, these can be consigned to the compost heap! While the soil is still warm, now is a good time to review any plants which may have been struggling in their current location and move them to a spot better suited to their favoured growing conditions. You should also look out for any overcrowded perennials that may be getting too large and will benefit from being divided up into a series of smaller plants. Pansies and wallflowers can be planted now to deliver an impressive display of colour early next spring.
Take advantage of the fact that this is the one time of year when you can afford to leave some leaf litter in the garden. A blanket of autumn leaves on any flower beds will actually provide a layer of protection against the inevitable harsh frosts and freezing snow associated with winter. Once all the borders are clean of any lingering weeds, a thick layer of fallen leaves (compost or well rotted manure can be applied too) will provide a rich mulch. This not only keeps the soil temperature moderate but also releases nutrients into the soil and helps improve its structure, as well as inhibiting weed growth.
Also ensure you regularly brush leaves off timber decking this not only removes a slip hazard but can also reduce the chance of premature rotting or unsightly stains caused by moisture help by leaves.
Welcome for wildlife
Keeping things natural in the garden also benefits visiting wildlife. The leaves which are spread over flowerbeds provide an ideal habitat for thrushes and blackbirds during the winter as well frogs and other invertebrates. Don’t cut hedges back until the very end of winter so that any visiting birds are able to benefit from their shelter – as well as forage on any berries. For the same reason, leave in situ any ivy that is weaving its way up walls and fences in the garden. Insect eaters such as tits will thank you for maintaining an environment that attracts the pests and aphids that they regularly devour.
Help for hedgehogs
With the UK having lost a third of its hedgehogs in the last ten years, it is now hugely important for any garden owner to do their bit to provide a warm welcome to the nation’s favourite wild animal. Here are some simple ways in which you can help our spiky friend’s survival
Create a natural hedgehog house in the shape of a log pile or visit hedghogstreet.org for details on how to build three different DIY hedgehog houses – from simple, to tricky as well as a recycled version!
Provide easy access to a shallow dish of fresh water and some food. Gourmet dining for hedgehogs involves a combination of the following: meat based dog or cat food; unsalted chopped or crushed peanuts; sunflower hearts and dried meal worms.
Love your lawn
Although leaves on flower beds are fine, a thick layer of leaves on the lawn however is not! This will weaken the grass and may also provide a useful hiding place / growing spot for unwelcome garden pests and lawn diseases. Rake up the leaf fall and add to the compost heap or put it into a shady area where it won’t affect the flow of essential nutrients to the grass.
Green house work
If you applied any shading paint to the greenhouse during the height of summer, now is the time to remove it so that as much light as possible can penetrate into the glasshouse space. If you want to keep your winter greenhouse heating bills down, you can use plastic bubble wrap to provide an extra layer of insulation. But be careful not to block too much light out with the tape used to secure your DIY insulation! Make sure that the heating is working effectively and replace any spent wicks or broken parts if you use a paraffin heater or book a routine service for any electric / gas heaters.
Autumn is when shrubs will benefit from pruning to help improve their overall shape and encourage plenty of flowers and fruit next year. Always use sharp, clean tools and cut close to and above any buds. Shorten any excessively long shoots and cut out any dead, damaged or weak growth. Container grown shrubs which have become pot-bound can have about a third of the thicker non fibrous roots cut back to the original root ball but be very careful not to damage the fibrous feeder roots. After pruning the plants should be repotted in fresh compost and the top growth should also be pruned by about a third as well. Deciduous trees (except maple, horse chestnut, birch, walnut and cherry which should be done mid-summer) should be pruned when dormant in the late autumn or winter. Before you get too carried away with any pruning, the RHS always recommends checking first if there is a Tree Preservation Order in place or if the tree is in a Conservation Area – both of which would necessitate permission from your local council before work can be commenced. You can find out by accessing the Land Charges Register which is held by your local authority planning department.
Remember last year’s storms? Make sure that your fence is fit to face the challenging weather conditions that may lie in store this winter. Your fence may have survived recent high winds but it is possible that the posts may have been weakened. Timber that has not been adequately treated can be seriously compromised by rot, which will result in an unstable fence line. Always buy a timber fence that offers a long service life and adequate protection against rot and wood boring pests – all Jacksons timber enjoys a 25-year guarantee, so regardless of any steady rainfall, the timber will remain intact and unaffected.
All hands on deck
A deck can come into its own during the winter, providing a convenient way of experiencing the outdoors without all the mud and dirt associated with a traditional garden setting. However, don’t forget to give the deck a good clean using a pressure washer or a stiff brush or scraper to remove any moss or lichen on the boards, which can represent a serious slip hazard. If you are installing a new deck, opt for decking boards with deep grooves to provide a safe slip free surface. All Jacksons decking features grooved boards available in either standard or heavy duty formats. A slip resistant board featuring two grit strips per board is also available – ideal for use around swimming pools and steps, visit www.jacksons-fencing.co.uk/fencing for more details.