The leaves are falling from the trees in large numbers, you’ve walked into a spider’s web already and it's too chilly to sit in the garden without a jacket. It’s time to round off the outdoor season tidily. 10 steps to leave things neat and tidy, get optimum enjoyment from your autumn garden, and take the first steps for the coming spring.
1) Recycle leaves
Suddenly your garden is full of fallen leaves. No, don’t just stick them in the garden waste bin. Rake the leaves off your lawn straight into the border, where they will provide a natural layer of insulation against frost. It’s better for grass to be able to breathe, so keep your lawn fairly leaf-free and cut it one more time before winter arrives. In the winter you can treat your lawn to some garden lime for a fresh green shade.
2) Protect your tap
Remove the garden hose from the outdoor tap and store it away. Shut off the tap - you don’t want it to freeze and be damaged by the expanding ice. Zinc watering cans can also be damaged by expanding ice, so tidy them away or place them upside down so that no water can get in.
3) Think of the wildlife
Birds and other creatures can do with some extra attention in the autumn and winter. Our article How to make your autumn garden wildlife-friendly offers some smart tips on how to encourage (un)desirable visitors into or out of the garden.
4) Plant check
Some plants are not bothered by the cold, whilst others are quick to give up the ghost. Our article Leave plants alone, prune them or bring them indoors? tells you everything you need to know. Read it and put it into action and your outdoor plants will get through the coming winter in style.
5) Remove annuals
Annual plants have now finished flowering, so you can remove them and throw them away. You can fill the bare patches with plants such as cushion chrysanthemums, violas, Osmanthus or winter heather. Place empty plant pots and watering cans in the shed to enjoy their hibernation.
6) The end of the outdoor swimming season
Remove plants that have finished flowering from the pond and stretch a net over it so that it doesn’t fill up with dead leaves. To prevent the pond from freezing over, insert a pump which creates an ice-free patch. This will ensure that fish and other water inhabitants get enough oxygen.
Wicker baskets, zinc containers and pots made of anything from terracotta to plastic will all be improved by a good scrubbing. Then you can put them into store. If they’re overwintering outdoors, store them upside down. If water is left in earthenware, the pots can crack if there’s a frost. Zinc expands when water freezes in it leaving you with a rounded base, so these should also be stored upside down. Painted and glazed earthenware is best stored in the shed.
8) Tool check
Check whether secateurs, hedge clippers and the lawnmower’s blades need sharpening. The sharper the equipment, the less damage it causes to the plants. Also clean garden tools and leave them to dry thoroughly. Wooden handles stay looking good if you rub them with oil, sand off any patches of rust, and grease metal parts. Finally empty the garden hose and leave all the fittings to soak in diluted vinegar overnight. Leave to dry thoroughly, and then they can be put into store as well. That leaves you with more room for your container and pot plants, and you will be able to access them more easily for watering later.
Leaf compost is actually easier to make than building an ‘ordinary’ compost heap. All you need is a couple of plastic binbags, somewhere to place them out of sight - and some leaves of course. Preferably rake them up after a rain shower, since the leaves need to be damp. Place as many leaves as possible in a bin bag, scatter some chalk (alternative options are compost accelerator or finely ground eggshells) between the layers, and press them down firmly. Empty the contents into a chicken wire basket in which you leave the leaves. Wind and weather will do the rest. After a year you will have a wonderfully nutritious soil cover (mulch) that you’ve made yourself. If you’re even more patient, it will turn into potting soil.
10) Get some garden inspiration
Now you’re going to be at home on the sofa more often, you’ve probably got time to get some garden inspiration for the coming season. Check out our website for great DIY craft projects, inspiring botanical artists and the latest plant trends.