Until last weekend, I’ve been in denial that winter or indeed any cold weather would ever arrive, but now the season really has arrived with a snap and a shiver; gardens nationwide want to be covered up and fully put to bed. So be your garden – large or small, there’s plenty of jobs to do to make it ‘winter-ready.’
Move potted plants closer to the sides of your house or cluster the pots together to prevent frosts really getting hold. Better still, you could wrap terracotta and glazed pots in bubble wrap or fleece. The more soil around your plants the better protected the roots, if possible you could slip the whole pot into a larger one, and fill the gap with soil or mulch.
Prune down faded perennials and deciduous shrubs to about 5cm in height, although if there are particularly good dried seed heads, why not leave them (good examples are echinacea or alliums) as they add a fantastic winter silhouettes to beds which are becoming rapidly bereft of structure.
Tubers such as dahlias or begonias can be lifted and stored in dry sand or compost with just the tops of the crowns showing, and left in a cool dry place to be transplanted in the spring.
You could be forgiven for thinking that all thoughts of seed sowing have gone with the summer breeze but early sowings of broad beans and peas can be carried out from mid-September until mid-November; the advantage being that the roots get well established under the ground, ready for the plants to start growing in the spring. Garlic can be sown from the beginning of the autumn right through until mid-February provided the ground is not too hard or water-logged.
Green manure such as legumes, crimson clover and vetch are great ground cover, good for suppressing weeds and providing nutrients for the soil; ideally they should be planted in autumn and then dug in in the spring. Alternatively, spread a thick layer of manure or compost over your vegetable bed, no need to dig in until the spring.
Leaf mould is made of decaying leaves, great for soil conditioning, adding to compost and easy to make. Rake up all fallen leaves (though some take more time than others to rot down, the best being oak or beech leaves.) A good trick to get it going is to set your lawn mower to a high setting and collect them all up that way; it chops the leaves up and adds a bit of grass cutting which will speed up the rotting process. Put it all in a bin liner, water if too dry and pierce liner with a fork, place all the bags in a corner and forget about it for two years.
Obviously I’ve just touched on a few jobs to tackle in time for the winter, but time taken now to protect your plants is well rewarded come spring time, so swaddle up your favourites and then snuggle up with your loved ones safe in the knowledge that all is well.
Article by author and gardener Fritha Waters