It has been a spookidly warm autumn but do
not be lulled into a false sense of security; irrespective of what went before,
winter brings wild winds and cold weather. So late autumn is a good time to
take some elementary, precautionary measures. In doing so, come spring, you and
your garden will be ahead of the game.
It is worth pondering the fate of birds and
insects in your garden during these inhospitable months. Keep the water in your
birdbath clean and topped off, ditto the bird feeders. If there is a quiet spot
out of sight of tidy-minded passers-by, you could consider making it hibernation
city. Just collect old logs, bundles of
sticks, leaves and branches into an untidy heap to encourage hibernating
wildlife. This heap will then act as a
magnet for pollinating insects and pest predators. At the end of winter, they wake up and
supplement the population of good guys in the garden.
There is also cutting down and tidying to
be done. Most urgent is to rake up leaves that make paths slippery and kill
patches of lawn. You might want to think about pressure washing concrete/stone
paths – they may become slippery if you don’t. Small leaves from deciduous
trees can be put in a heap where they turn into leaf mould. Rose and fruit tree leaves tend to harbour disease
and need to be binned or burned. Any structural shrubs or trees which have
grown wayward branches need pruning back into the shape you want. Branches
should not cross, otherwise they may rub and create a wound. At the same time
remove any diseased, damaged or dead growth.
Never prune when the weather is freezing or
when sub-zero temperatures are expected within 48 hours. Subject to this overriding rule, hedges can
have a very tiny trim where they have sprouted before the frosts come, but
allow enough time for new growth to harden off. While you are clipping your
hedging, whenever your arms get tired, have a little weeding moment at the
Cut back perennials that look lost and
faded but keep the ones that look good shrouded in frost. Compost all these
trimmings, but before you do so, empty your compost bins of last year's well-rotted
compost and use that on the beds once you have cut everything back. The soil
looks much better with a layer of black compost as mulch, weed suppressant and
joy for worms all at the same time - how is that for multi-tasking?
Cut large rose bushes back by about a
third. Don't bother with careful
pruning, if you have lots you can do this with a hedge trimmer. Proper rose pruning happens in early spring. This quick 'haircut' is to reduce the chance
of your roses being rocked around by the winds.
Stray shoots from climbers and ramblers should be tied in while they
Soft fruit bushes (such as currants and gooseberry) will need pruning as well. This is a fair-sized topic that you can find
a good article on the subject here
which will guide you through the intricacies of old and new wood and fruiting
spurs. While speaking about fruit,
nothing will ripen any further so any remaining fruit on the trees should be
picked and stored, fed to the birds, or composted.
Some fruit trees will need pruning in
winter. The golden rule here is you can
prune any fruit that has a pip (apples, pears etc) and you cannot prune any
fruit that has stones (plums, cherries etc). While you are there, check stakes
and ties on your trees to prevent strangulation and apply tree grease. November
is the best time to prune walnut trees- they bleed less.
Evergreens are the ones to watch in winter.
They continue to transpire and need watering if young or newly planted. 3 cm (1.18 inches) of
rainfall a week is necessary, and you need to supply the shortfall. It is the
drying wind that is so pernicious. A protective, temporary barrier will stop
this. Such a windbreak is an idea for any newly planted hedge in an exposed
Pots can be planted with pansies, ornamental
cabbage and dwarf boxwood for winter interest. Any pot that you leave outside which is
not truly frost proof may need wrapping in bubble wrap in severe frosts.
The virtue of all this tidying is that you
actually get to see your fences/ trellis/ greenhouse again, presenting the
perfect opportunity for repairs, cleaning of glass (don't forget the roof),
seed trays, application of wood preservative to exposed timber and decking-and crucially clearing leaves from gutters and down-pipes. If these empty into
water butts then these should (I know, I know) have an annual scrub to remove
algae. Winter is the time because they have a chance to fill again before dry
weather next year. Outdoor furniture needs to be taken indoors or wrapped with
tarpaulin. Genuinely outdoor furniture can be titivated with a clean and, where
relevant, a generous application of reviving teak or furniture oil. Machinery
can be serviced and tools oiled and sharpened before being put away.
All that is done you can go inside and,
instead of putting your feet up, start wrapping Christmas presents!
The contributing author of this article, Julian de Bosdari is a garden writer and
owner of Ashridge Trees, a UK based gardening site that specializes in hedging and hedging plants. The site is full of valuable information, and if your visit their advice page, you will encounter numerous articles on all facets of gardening.
As Always...Happy Gardening!
Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved