Preparing your garden for winter
For gardeners, terrible summer weather can be hugely frustrating, making it difficult to enjoy all the usual fun things about being in the garden.
Colourful pots and hanging baskets struggle to maintain their look in the face of all the downpours, and sometimes there is barely time to sit down and enjoy the sunshine before another cloudburst.
Gardeners, however, are made of stern stuff, and as the nights draw in it's time to be thinking about how to prepare your garden for winter. As you enjoy what's left of the summer, there are plenty of jobs that need to be tackled if your garden is to be on top form for next year's growing season.
We all hate doing it, but mulching has to be done, and the autumn is the time to lock all that rainfall into the soil to keep your garden healthy through the winter. Whilst you are planting in autumn is the perfect time to add well-rotted manure or compost to your beds - a handful in your planting hole and a bucketful around each plant will see it through the winter.
If you've a particularly large garden, look for online deals for ten bags of compost and have it delivered. It will save a trip to the garden centre and a lot of backache. Whilst the garden is asleep, the worms will be busy drawing the compost's organic matter deep into the soil, enriching it and helping to boost nitrogen levels. Keep the weather in mind too - we have had very dry springs in recent years. Adding compost to the soil in late autumn will ensure that your soil is moist and nutrient rich in time for spring planting.
Tidy up, but not too much. Consider the beauty of seedpods left in place and the protection that fallen leaves offer to wildlife. Tidy up really unsightly plants, but don't overdo it. Dead foliage will soon disappear into the soil and add to the organic matter you have already deposited.
Autumn is the best time to cut back your perennials, however, and most rather enjoy a trim, as it promotes thick growth and resilience. Late autumn is when you should lift and divide perennials too - tackle the job before winter and the garden will look much improved come the following spring.
If you have dried seedpods, now is the time to collect seeds for storage in paper bags. You can also lift some of your more tender plants, ready to overwinter them in the greenhouse or a cool inside room.
Clear out any annuals - if you were able to plant any over the inclement summer - and compost them. Don't neglect your lawn either. It will have loved the wet summer, but a quick going-over with a spring-tined rake will remove any dead 'thatch' that may have built up over the summer, and allow the grass to benefit from an autumn feed that will see it through the winter. These feeds tend to be root strengthening in composition, which should see the lawn looking more robust year on year.
As with all gardening, it is wise to pick your time to complete these jobs. Keep an eye on what's happening with the weather by checking the latest UK news, and wait for a few dry days without the threat of rain to tackle your final tasks of the autumn. That way you can get plants lifted and replanted in one go and a dry lawn to rake without the threat of being rained off.
Photo credit: Graham Soult