The leaves are falling, it’s getting dark by five o’clock and virtually every advert on the TV either involves jingle bells or prepaid summer holidays. As every Game of Thrones fan will tell you: Winter Is Coming. Last blog I did my annual preaching on making sure the garden is ready for the wildlife that will be looking for a home over the coming cold months but of course we need to think of what’s best for our gardens too. So here are a few jobs we can be all be getting on with to make sure our gardens are ready for the big freeze.
In case anyone didn’t notice, there are one or two extra leaves on the ground at the moment. Now obviously these need to be cleared up because they look untidy and have a habit of smothering and killing any grass or smaller plants that get buried, but what to do then. As I mentioned in my last article, a few piles could be set aside in out of the way places to act as hedgehog hotels over the winter, but if your gardens are anything like mine then you will have a lot-lot…lot more than is needed for that. True, if you have garden waste bins you could simply have them taken away, though you will probably need to fill them a few times, but then again why waste such valuable material? Fallen leaves make for particularly good composting material, once rotted down into mulch they will provide body and a great source of nutrients to your compost and luckily there happen to be tonnes of them about right now. Make sure to top up your heap before you get rid of the excess and you will have a near limitless supply of composty goodness for the coming year.
Spruce the Borders
Now is the time of year when everything is dying back, so it’s only natural that there should be some detritus left over. This includes everything from fallen stems to defunct annuals to yet more leaves. Pretty much everything you clean out of the borders that is not diseased, can be added to the compost so it’s another fine opportunity to add to next year’s stockpile. Do remember though as you’re uncluttering that all manner of insects and amphibians like to use this sort of stuff as winter bedding, so maybe leave the occasional patch here and there. Once you have cleaned out and composted all the dead matter you will have a nice neat border but perhaps it could with a little something now that it looks so bare? Now is really your last opportunity to plant any spring bulbs you may have so if you have a few left over and you’re not sure what to do with them, bung them in anywhere that looks particularly empty. As the ground cools down, it is particularly good for planting tulips. The garden centres will be looking to offload any over stocks they have so bargains can be found. At best they will and a bit more colour when spring comes around, at worst … well there is no at worst really – a dazzling splash of colour is always welcome. Once you’re happy with your nice clean border, it’s time to tuck it up for the winter. It’s good that you have been replenishing you compost heap because now is the time to break out the older stuff and dig a good amount into your borders before they get all cold and hard. With that all done your borders will be raring to go when spring arrives.
Get the Greenhouse Gleaming
It might not be the first thing you think of when preparing a garden for the cold of winter, but making sure your greenhouse is sparkling is actually very important. As the days are now well and truly the poor cousin to the cold nights at the tail end of the year, sunlight is becoming a rarer and rarer commodity. At this time of year it isn’t enough to just keep your plants warm, they also need every last glimmer of light they can get. So what, you may think, they’re in a greenhouse, it’s made out of glass. Well actually even a slight grubbiness on your panels can reduce the amount of light getting through to the plants. This is doubly true if you have shade paint on said panels of course but then that is rather the point. Either way a good scrubbing with hot water will sort everything out, give the windows a good clean both inside and out and you will have a sparkling greenhouse filled with much happier plants. Add a spot of Jeyes fluid to the water to kill off any unwelcome fungus or dormant disease as well.
Just a few little odd jobs but they are important, if for no other reason than to give you an excuse to be out in the garden before it all disappears under a blanket of snow for a month or two.