As the autumnal months draw to a close and winter creeps in, there are still important jobs you can do to improve your garden
Getting ready for next year's season sounds like a monumental task, one which is made even more unappealing by the worsening weather and shortening days. (What's not to like about winter?) But with colder temperatures, your garden may start to look in need of an overhaul. Luckily, you no longer have perennial weeds to contend with!
Small victories, hey?
This clarity gives you time to look at the ground unimpeded by tall weeds, thickly verdant climbers, ramblers and other vigorous garden invaders. Now's the time to get out the secateurs; to uncover the shears; maybe even locate the spirit level.
Take notes, there's lots to be done!
Clearing this year's growth and making garden compost
The business end of the year - clearing and tidying your garden for next year's growing season. This can be as devestating as you want it to be but make sure to time your garden's haircut based on when that plant starts to go dormant. Trees, perennials and shrubs start to draw sugars back into their roots ready to overwinter, so getting this wrong will stunt your plant for next year. It's sometimes best to wait until after the first (couple of) light frosts.
Some plants, such as rambling and climbing roses can be attacked from as soon as late September, depending on if you want late flowers and rose hips. You can reset overgrown roses by taking back any old wood to the ground, leaving just 4-6 new, green shoots from the base. Next year's growth comes from this green wood.
Thinking ahead to next year - starting seeds and potting on - you're going to want to make use of all this lush green waste you're making. Investing in a good quality pair of secateurs and a garden shredder will make this job so much easier, allowing you to break down anything you rip out of the garden. The smaller the waste produced, the quicker the microbes and composting organisms can get to work producing next year's compost.
Think about what you want to put into the compost and how much soft green materials and woody brown material should go into it. Ideally the green element should be between 25-50% of the total composition but in winter, when it's colder, a composition closer to the 50% mark will help provide enough high energy feed to the bacteria to produce heat to keep it going. It should also help balance the moisture in the compost, although you can always supplement this with additional water (and urine, if you're inclined to do so).
A lot of perennial plants, whilst good for compost, are now beginning to disperse their seeds, so you may want to collect these before you despatch the rest of the plant!
Good additions to the compost bin include grass clippings. There may only be one or two more cuts remaining this year, so do make the most of this precious resource!
The roses may be a little more tricky to deal with, but with this prickly opportunity comes great benefit to your compost. However, you're going to want to make sure this rose wood is chopped/shredded nice and small, as the outer layer of the older wood in particular is a little more inaccessible for decomposers.
As for creepers, climbers and ramblers, you can start to think about taking these back to the base wood now as they're at the end of their season and will only produce more leaves to clear up later on!
And on that note - leaves!
Get a good leaf vaccuum or a good (preferably rubber tine) rake to get all these leaves under control. Leaves are better served making good quality compost than collecting and decaying on driveways and paths, making slippery slime that can break necks this season and that weeds can grow in next season.
Membrane, membrane, membrane...
Yes, this has to be one of our favourite topics to talk about but with good reason!
Black plastic sheeting laid in your garden in early winter stops weeds popping up in early spring. It also helps warm the soil, meaning you can get to work on your garden designs for next season even sooner. If you like gardening as much as I do, then that's got to be a massive bonus in itself.
If not, you're getting ahead of next year's weeds, making life a lot easier next year.
Essentially with ground cover fabric, this winter's graft is next year's low maintenance patch.
Keeping warm in winter
If you're not so keen on the cold, you might want to think about installing an outdoor decking area or some gravel or even a new patio.
A bit of hard work to keep warm with.
Get ahead now with the groundworks in Autumn before the cold, hard winter months make the ground a little harder to work with! You can even break a sweat with some heavy lifting of slabs, gravel and decking boards. A winter warmer and a summer terrace, nice.
If it's still too unpleasant and you really want to get out of the house, you can continue to enjoy the great outdoors with a chiminea, patio heater or log burner.
Whatever you choose to do this autumn, now's the time to get ready for next year. Use this as a springboard for your next project.
Got any questions? Get in touch with us and we'll give you some hints!