Autumn is officially here – the leaves are falling, the weather is (finally!) getting cooler and we’re waking up to some gorgeous mists in the mornings. Our unseasonably warm September may mean your garden has been flowering until the last gasp, but now things are finally dying back. Time to down tools for year, right? Think again – Autumn is one of busiest times for the gardener as they make the most of cooler, wetter weather to get prepared for spring. We’ve got some top tips on what you should be up to out there in the next few weeks.
It’s been the driest September on record, and the fourth hottest too, which has been doing strange things to our garden plants with many flowering much later than normal. This may mean you’ve delayed your pruning for a few weeks, but as the days get shorter and the light lessens things will start to die back, so now is the time to get started. You may need to do another cutback at the beginning of November if anything has sprouted again.
Get planting hardy shrubs like laurels and leylandii; with more rain and less sun the soil is retaining more moisture and Autumn morning mists keep a nice, damp eco system going for new plants. Once planted, shrubs should need minimum watering, but keep an eye out in case they do dry out and give them a drink in the mornings if necessary.
It’s a prime time to plant roses ready for a beautiful display of colour and scent next year. Most garden centres tend to run stocks of roses down, leaving you with less choice, so it can be a good idea to go to a specialist rose nursery for your plants. Choose plants that are a good shape and green and healthy looking. To plant out, dig a hole just bigger than the pot the rose comes in, line with good quality rose compost, pop in the plant, cover the roots and water well.
Winter Pansies for Seasonal Colour
Just because winter is coming doesn’t mean that your garden has to be a colourless wasteland for months. To keep things bright, try planting a display of gorgeous winter pansies. You see them commonly planted in hanging baskets but they can also go out in raised borders and beds. Winter pansies come in all shapes and colours so you can create themes or a riot of colour.
Your glorious alliums may be over for the year but you can still enjoy these flowers by drying them and bringing them into the house for a marvellous indoor display – the round ball-like structure of the flower heads looks great. You could even spray the heads white, gold or silver and make them part of a Christmas display along with some holly in a few weeks time. You can simply cut your flower heads once they’ve died off and bring them inside, or if they’re a little damp from the garden, leave them somewhere warm to dry out before using them.
General Gardening Tips
You can reduce your lawn mowing as Autumn draws in. Cutting every two to three weeks will keep growth under control, but don’t be over-enthusiastic – set your mower blades higher so you don’t over cut and the grass stays healthy and green over the winter.
At this time of year a nice warm compost heap full of worms becomes an attractive prospect for wildlife looking for a cosy winter shelter. Hedgehogs, mice and other small creatures can build nests inside the heap to take advantage of an ideal spot, but this means that if you go to use some compost over the winter you may disturb a nest or even harm a hibernating animal. To avoid this, carefully dig through your compost now and spread a good chunk of it on your borders before nesting starts.
You can provide an alternative habitat for wildlife at the same time as tidying your garden- rake those falling Autumn leaves into a nice big pile in a sheltered spot and leave them – hedgehogs and mice may take up the invitation. Wood piles also make great wildlife homes – pile logs into a quiet corner where they can be left to rot down and you’ll attract everything from beetles to hedgehogs. You can even grow an attractive flowering climber over a log pile.
It’s also a good time to start insulating the inside of your greenhouse in preparation for colder weather. You can use bubble wrap on the windows to keep out chilly draughts.
Garden Design Ideas
October is an ideal time to start planning your garden design for next year. There’s no rush – as things wind down for winter, start by thinking more generally about what you want your garden to achieve. What’s its primary function? Do you want something low maintenance? A paradise of flowers? A cornucopia of veg? A wildlife haven? A child-friendly play space? Spend this month visualising your end result. You can make notes, or use an online tool like Pinterest to collect pictures of the kind of gardens you like.