The long nights and hot days of summer have gone, and Autumn is finally here. Crinkled leaves beneath trees, a layer of frost on the grass, flocks of birds migrating south – nature is getting ready for winter, and you should too!
That’s right, it’s time to start thinking about preparing your garden. Every garden needs a little bit of work before the cold draws in to make sure it’s both clean and pretty before those winter months.
But it can be hard to know where to start, or what exactly to do. If you’re stuck not knowing where to begin with your autumn gardening or which tools to use, then you’ve come to the right place. This guide will run you through everything there is to know about making your garden winter-ready.
A lot of these steps aren’t impossible to do in winter, but it’s easier to do your autumn gardening now when the soil isn’t hard and there are still a few warm days around.
Let’s get started!
Get Rid Of The Deadwood
As the temperature falls and the gardening season ends, a lot of plants won’t be able to live in a colder climate. It is a shame, but they will die. Don’t sit around and watch them though – they’re taking up valuable space and are a problem in the making.
Dead plants and flowers rot if not removed from their bedding, which is bad for your garden. Rotting plant material takes up space for living plants but, more importantly, it attracts pests. Rats, insects, and all sorts of things love to feast on rotting plants.
Unless you want your garden to be full of these pests, it’s best to remove anything dead or decaying from your beds or pots.
You can either throw them away or use them in a compost heap, where rotting will be helpful rather than a hindrance.
At this time, it’s also a good idea to take down any climbing plants you have. Climbers are very well-adapted to warmer weather but don’t do so well in the cold because their thin vines freeze and snap easily. They won’t do so well in the winter, so it is best to take them and their supports down sooner rather than later
Remember that the earlier you take your dead plants or climbers down, the lower the risk of pests is.
Before the frosts turn the soil hard and the days chilly, you’ll want to clean up your garden as much as possible. If you have tools scattered throughout your garden or broken pots that you just don’t want to clean up, now is the time to make a move.
Clean up your garden completely, top to bottom, dealing with all the tasks you would rather not. It might be annoying to do them, but it is better to take care of these tasks when you don’t have to wrap yourself up in all your layers to go outside.
This clean should also include clearing up all your dead leaves. Falling leaves in autumnal colours are an iconic image of this season, but they’re also a hazard in the waiting.
Leave them too long, and they’ll attract pests just like the dead plant matter does. They’ll also cover any grass they’re on, ruining the lawn underneath. Rake them up – but don’t throw them away. We’ll come back to what you can use your piles of dead leaves for later.
Fix Lawn And Borders
Autumn is also the time to give your lawn that last bit of care before the dreaded frosts. The best thing about doing this in autumn is that the earth is still warm and loose. The grass and soil can still move around, which means you can cut it without the worry that you will damage the turf.
Cut your grass as fine as possible to reduce damage to the turf when the cold weather causes it to become dry and freeze. The less exposed to the elements your grass is, the quicker and healthier it will grow back when the warm seasons return.
It’s also a good idea to trim and polish the borders of your lawn at this stage, trimming off any unruly edges either where it meets plant beds, paving, or your house. Get it looking as good as it can be.
You might be surprised, but autumn is also the ideal time to lay down new grass. Since the soil is still loose and warm, but also moist with all the autumnal rain, it provides extremely good conditions for growth.
If you’ve been thinking about laying down new grass in your garden, then don’t hang around! Autumn is the perfect time to trim or train your lawn.
Make Leaf Mould
Now is the time to use the leaves that you collected during your garden clean – by making leaf mould! Making leaf mould is a great way to help your garden while recycling the waste that it has created. Leaf mould acts as a slow-releasing fertiliser that will help your garden soil.
The first thing to note is that it takes time before leaf mould can be used. Leaf mould requires the leaves to naturally decay, a process that can take a long time. While you might start making leaf mould now, it could be two years until the mould is ready to use.
There are some thorough guides for making and using leaf mould, but if you want some brief steps we’ve listed them for you below.
- Start by collecting up all your dead leaves into a large pile.
- Transfer all the leaves into a large bag. A bin or paper bag will work but aim for something more robust.
- Add water into the bag. This will help it decay faster.
- Put the bag away in a safe place where the leaves can decay. Leave it there for one or two years. It will need this long to break down.
- The mould is ready when it looks like a thick paste.
- Spread the paste out into your plant beds, around any foliage or trees – anywhere you want to help the soil.
The leaf mould paste will be rich in nutrients and will help to fertilise and enrich the soil. But, again, these effects will take time to come to fruition. It could be another year or so until you notice that your plants are growing faster and looking healthier.
With leaf mould, patience is key: give it a bit of time, and it will work its magic!
Don’t be fooled by the falling leaves, autumn is the perfect time to start planting!
As we discussed earlier, the soil is still warm from summer but full of the added moisture of autumn rains. These are the perfect conditions for growing and will let the buds, seeds, or saplings lay down their initial roots before the winter. This part of autumn gardening is
If you’re wondering what to plant, don’t stress! While you can plant most non-seasonal plants during the autumn months, we’ve got a few handy suggestions for species that do very well in these kinds of conditions.
All kinds of trees
If you’ve considered planting a tree, then you should know that there is no better time to do it! Trees love both the moist autumn ground and the cold winter soil too, so planting them at this time of year is ideal.
You don’t just have to plant your regular trees, either. Why not mix it up and plant a fruit tree!?
Either plant a sapling you’ve brought, or go for a more natural option: find a good chestnut or acorn, and plant them up in a small pot. Feed them a bit of water, and keep them in an enclosed space outside: you want them to be cold rather than warm.
Roses and shrubs
Both roses and shrubs are well-suited to the autumnal ground too. This is for much the same reason as trees and shrubs!
Because these varieties are rather fast-growing, they will start growing thick and fast once the winter starts to recede. If you plant now, you may just be able to pick your own roses by next year!
Many of us are already thinking ahead to spring, and planning out next year’s gardening. Planning ahead doesn’t mean having to wait though – if you want a spring garden bursting with life, it’s time to start getting it ready. Yes, it’s time to start planting bulbs.
There are many varieties of spring bulbs that you can start preparing and planting, from daffodils to tulips, and crocuses to bluebells. What you plant is up to you – just make sure to choose quickly and get planting!
Complete Autumn Garden
If you’ve followed these tips you should be looking at an autumn garden that is completely ready for winter – and spring too!
While it might be a hassle to try and get this all done during the short autumn season, remember that all the effort you put in now will bear fruit when the colder weather arrives. Even in the heart of winter, you’ll have a garden that you can be proud of.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Doing autumn gardening isn't essential, but it can give you a huge helping hand later on in the year. Even doing a simple clean can make your garden look nicer and feel better to be in when winter comes. The more you do, the better your garden will look - not just in a few months, but in the years to come.
There are two very important things to do when autumn gardening: removing dead plants and planting new ones. Getting rid of the old makes room for the new, and without new growth your garden won't evolve - you shouldn't do one without the other!
It usually takes leaf mould at least two years until it takes effect. The first year is when it is rotting and forming into the mould paste. Once it has been spread, it will take another year until the nutrients seep into the soil and start helping your plants grow!