The transformation autumn brings to your garden is a sight to behold. The leaves falling, autumn blooms, the orange and brown hues – we love it! Some of course, may feel a little down at the end of summer, but autumn can be a busy time that also holds a lot of gardening potential. Alan Titchmarsh always said to keep your garden tidy in autumn, and we wholeheartedly agree.
Autumn is the time of year to get your ducks in a row before winter, preparing for a healthy revival in spring. It’s not just about making the garden look good, although that is a big part of it, no, it’s also about giving your lawn, trees and plants some due care so that they are all set for winter conditions before spring comes back around.
Follow our easy-to-follow tips and you’ll reap the rewards to enjoy autumn and be well prepared for spring.
General Clean Up
Look around. The hose to the sprinkler is unfurled, the kids’ chute is tipped over, the clothesline doesn’t need to be left up, that BBQ won’t be used for months, nor will a lot of your garden furniture, the greenhouse needs sprucing and there’s algae spreading on the fence too. Maybe you have all these issues, maybe just some, the point is every garden has things that can be sorted, put to the side or away entirely for winter to make it appear less messy.
Tidy Your Borders
Look at your borders and remove any dying leaves, dead stems, weeds strayed stones, and old mulch. Also, using a pair of secateurs, cut back any trees and shrubs that are overgrown making sure to remove anything that is dead, diseased, or damaged. Once your borders are looking neat and tidy, you can spread a thick layer of compost, or a new layer of mulch like bark chips.
Planting for Autumn and Spring
With the soil still warm enough but moist from autumn rains, it’s a perfect time to plant. You have a lot of choice when it comes to introducing colour to your garden in autumn, and now is also the time to plant bright and cheerful spring-flowering bulbs, such as crocus, chrysanthemum and dahlias. Put them in your beds or in pots.
Some of your perennials, such as lavender, sedum, geranium, dianthus, and hydrangeas, will need to be lifted out and moved to a more sheltered location before the first frosts come. Otherwise they will not survive through winter. To prepare for lifting, cut the stems back to roughly 10cm from their base, then dig up removing as much soil as you can from the roots. Then, place in pots in a garden shed, greenhouse or take them indoors.
Lots of plants are at the right stage to harvest their seeds in autumn. Different plants make seed heads in different ways so be aware of what type of seed head your plant makes as it will dictate the best time and method to harvest their seeds.
When you have the right method, collecting their seeds isn’t too difficult at all. When seeds are ready to harvest just collect them in a freezer bag or paper envelope. Dry them out for a few days which you can do by leaving them on some newspaper in a cool, dry area. Then, they’ll be ready to store for sowing in spring. Just be sure to label the bag or envelop so you know what seeds you have.
Consider also leaving some seed heads on your flowers to bring decorative structure to your borders that look striking in winter with a covering of frost.
Sweep you any fallen leaves from your paths to avoid slips, from choking borders and from killing your lawn. If leaves are left in dense piles on the lawn, they will kill the grass underneath to leave you with a patchy mess. If left on your borders they will attract slugs and could also start to rot away the crowns of your plants. But don’t despair, leaf piles in out-of-the-way parts of the garden are fine and can provide shelter for overwintering wildlife like hedgehogs.
Pro tip: use them to make leaf mould which is a great soil improver. To do this, pack the damp leaves fully in a black bin liner, tie it up, and pierce a few times. Leave it somewhere for about a year and the crumbly brown leaf mould will be ready to use. Your plants will love it!
Get the Lawn Ready
Prepare your lawn for winter by aerating, scarifying, fertilising, and over-seeding. It’ll be lush, thick and full of vitality when spring comes around. Trim your borders to really finish the look that a neatly cut and edged lawn provides too. Cut for a final time with the blades higher than usual to leave the grass longer over winter.
Pro tip: cutting your grass on the lowest setting all the time is called “scalping” and hinders a healthy lawn. You should cut your grass on a higher setting generally but cut it on the highest setting for the last cut to see it through winter.
Protect plants over winter with a mulch – a layer of organic matter spread over the soil. Read more about how to mulch and mulching in our mulching guides:
Repair fences, sheds, compost bins, any damage to raised beds. Replace any rotting fence posts because now is as good a time as any, and so they don’t get blown down in winter storms. Watch out for a leaking shed roof or exposed openings, and greenhouse panes that need replacing, as these often-overlooked tasks can be the difference between successful overwintering or disappointment from dead plants.
All Done, Now Enjoy
With a little effort there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the best of autumn in your garden and be well prepared for spring. Take it from us, you’ll definitely appreciate the effort you put in throughout the following year. As your garden dies back, you’ll also see potential areas of improvement in terms of colour and interest.
There’s no reason that you can’t enjoy colour and structure in winter with a few well-chosen trees and plants, consult our guide to autumn colour for ideas on what to plant, it can really lift your spirits on a dreary day.