You’ve probably spent more time in your garden this summer than most other years. With the restrictions of lockdown, the cancellation of foreign holidays, and the fact that most public spaces are busier than ever, most people’s gardens have been heavily used over the summer months.
2020 was the year that many of us really got into gardening for the first time. I certainly started paying much more attention to the garden this summer, because it was about as far as I went for weeks on end.
But the work doesn’t stop now that the colder weather’s here. In fact, autumn is the ideal time to get it cleaned up and ready for the extremes of winter. So pull out your gloves and let’s take a look at what we should be doing now.
What should you do with your garden in autumn?
A lot of the work is actually tidying up from the planting and projects of the summer. But if you do it now, you’ll have a lot less work on your hands when the weather turns warmer again in the spring.
Sort out furniture and Barbecues before winter
What to do with your garden furniture and BBQ over the winter really depends on whether you’ve got anywhere to store it. If you’re lucky enough to have a shed or garage where it can be put away for the season, then this can be the easiest way to make sure it’s protected from the elements.
However, if you’re leaving it out (like I am, because we never managed to clear out our garage despite being home for 6 months), then make sure that cushions are stored away indoors out of the damp and think about investing in covers to protect the hard surfaces from falling leaves and frost.
Try to give furniture a decent clean before it’s covered or stored – and make sure it’s dry before any covers go on. Remember to give your barbecue grill a final clean too, so you don’t open it up to a horror show on the first warm day next spring.
Clean Patios and Decks
Now’s a great time to get decks, patios and driveways cleaned up. Removing mould and moss will mean they don’t get slippy and dangerous over winter.
If you have a pressure washer, this is the best way to go about it. They’re much quicker and more powerful than a standard hose – although if you’ve used one before, you’ll know it’s a messy job. Wear old clothes and wellies at all costs. You’ll still end up looking like the swamp monster, but at least you’ve been warned.
If you’ve got swings, slides or a trampoline, now is also a good opportunity to clean these up ahead of winter. And if your paddling pool is still out, dumped in a corner somewhere looking a bit green and full of gunk, then it’s probably time to get that away too. Alternatively, you could leave it out till the spring when it’ll be irreparably manky and then buy a new one next year. (Not that I’d ever be that irresponsible, twice.)
Autumn Lawn Care
Now is a great time to get your grass back into good condition after the summer and ready to withstand the winter weather. British summer can throw all sorts at our grass, from drought to waterlogging – so taking care of it in the autumn can help with bare patches, weeds and moss.
The best way to start, whatever the condition of your lawn, is to scarify the grass: this basically means getting a springy metal-tined rake and using it to remove debris and moss.
If your lawn has been wet, aerate it using a large garden fork. Then apply a dedicated autumn lawn fertiliser, plus any treatments you need for moss or weeds.
If you have patches, whether from poor growth, pets, or under the kids’ play equipment, this is a great time to re-seed them with a lawn seed or patch mix.
Plant Spring Bulbs
Whether it’s in beds and borders, or pots and patio containers, this is the time to plant some spring-flowering bulbs. If you plant a variety, you’ll get flowers over a longer period of time come the spring. Try snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils and tulips to get a rainbow of colour as we emerge from winter.
If you’re unsure where to start, most bulb packets have planting instructions on them to help you. Then you can pretty much ignore them until they pop up to brighten your day next year.
Autumn Trees and Shrubs
If you’re looking to establish hedges, climbers or roses, then autumn is a great time to plant hardy shrubs (for non-hardy, it’s best to wait till spring). Use plenty of compost or manure to add organic matter to the soil.
For existing shrubs, roses and hedging, prune them back after they’ve finished flowering to neaten them up.
Autumn Fruit and Veg Garden
If you planted fruit and veg this year (as integral to the lockdown experience as watching Tiger King), then you may still be harvesting it now. Watch out for birds going for autumn fruit – you may need to protect it if you’re still picking.
You might also want to plant seeds for winter and spring harvesting, such as spring cabbages, spinach, and radishes.
Most of all, enjoy the last of the warmer weather before the chill sets in. Take any chance you can get to sit in a sunny spot with a cup of tea, and soak up that vitamin D while you can.