The few leaves left on trees are falling rapidly, the first of the frosts are on their way, and we’re now seeing the Autumn storms that bring high winds and rain.
Now is the time to finish tidying your garden ready for over-wintering, and to take precautionary measures to protect tender plants from the cold and wet.
It’s also time to care for your garden wildlife. It’s worked hard for you all year, so now is the time to repay these garden hero’s with food, shelter and warmth to help get them through the harsh winter months ahead.
1. Keep clearing fallen leaves
Continue to clear up fallen leaves from lawns, flower borders and ponds. If you’re making leaf mulch for next year remember to add them to your growing collection.
2. Look after your outside containers
Move pots into close huddles to help protect them from the cold and prevent them from cracking in the frosts. You can also wrap pots in bubble wrap to help insulate them and place pot feet under containers to stop them from becoming waterlogged.
3. Protect your garden wildlife
With the colder months on their way, some species of wildlife will be looking for warm, undisturbed areas in which to hibernate over winter. Others will be looking for help with finding regular food sources to keep them sustained during the colder months. For both, survival is the name of the game. Keeping a wildlife-friendly garden over the winter is vital to ensuring they’re around next year to help with important garden tasks of pollination and pest management.
- Clean and replenish bird feeders. Keep them well stocked over the winter months and you’ll be rewarded with daily visits from a wide range of garden birds.
- Clean out the birdbath and keep this well topped up and free from ice.
- Clean out nesting boxes to provide winter shelter for birds, and so that they’re ready for new nests in spring.
- Leave some seedheads standing in the borders to provide food and shelter for wildlife.
- Leave herbaceous and hollow-stemmed plants unpruned until early spring to provide homes for overwintering insects.
- Leave mature ivy uncut if possible, this provides an excellent late source of nectar for insects.
- Whilst it’s a good idea to clear up leaves and tidy borders for winter, make sure you keep some areas suitable for hibernating mammals such as hedgehogs, who like nothing better than to snuggle up in a nice warm leaf pile.
- Always check bonfires before they are lit for sheltering and hibernating animals, such as hedgehogs,toads and frogs.
- If you have a pond keep a hole clear in the ice to allow wildlife to drink, and enter and exit the water. Use hot water to melt the hole, rather than hitting or cracking the ice as this sends harmful shockwaves through the water.
- Be careful when turning compost heaps. Keep an eye out for frogs, toads and other animals sheltering in the warmth it generates.
- Keep a shallow dish or container of water at ground level for garden wildlife that needs to drink.
- Put up an insect or bug hotel in a sheltered position for overwintering ladybirds and lacewings.
4. Plant tulip bulbs and winter bedding
If you haven’t already done so now is your last chance to plant tulip bulbs before the ground gets too wet or too hard. Scatter your bulbs in clumps among your borders, or plant en-masse in pots for a truly impressive display.
The same for winter bedding. Place in pots for a moveable display or in borders to bring a bit of colour and cheer throughout the winter month.
5. Clean your greenhouse
A cold wet November day is the perfect time to take shelter in your greenhouse and give it a good clear out in preparation for spring time propagation. Clear out old pots, tools, compost bags or anything else you no longer need or is beyond repair. Then start cleaning and stacking pots. Cleaning, mending and sharpening tools. Before then moving on to washing windows for a light and airy workspace, and scrubbing benches and other fixtures and fittings with disinfectant before hosing down to remove pests and disease.
6. Move tender plants
Any tender plants (such as bananas and tree ferns) need protection from the British weather over winter. If they are in pots, move them into your freshly cleaned greenhouse, or into a spot sheltered from the wind, rain and frost. Alternatively you can protect them n-situ by wrapping them in a protective layer (a combination of fleece and hessian, or a rigid frame of chicken wire surrounding the plant packed full of straw).
7. Drain and lag outside water supplies
Keep standpipes, outdoor taps, irrigation lines and water pumps free from damage hard frosts by draining and lagging them. For this you can use bubble wrap or special lagging material from DIY shops to provide an insulated layer around exposed fittings.