Summer’s the time to enjoy the garden, and sit back and relax with your feet up and a cup of tea. Autumn is the time to pay for it though, and put some work in to get garden ready for winter and give it a flying start for next year. Here’s the Cosy Home guide to essential autumn garden jobs.
Divide herbaceous perennials
These plants are the mainstay of most garden borders, and include aster daisies, delphiniums, perennial geraniums, primroses and verbena.
If you have perennials that form clumps, they can be divided to create separate new plants ready for next year. With summer-flowering plants, it’s best to work with them in autumn once they’ve finished their display of blooms and they’re no longer actively growing. To divide them, lift them gently with a garden fork taking care not to damage roots. Depending on the plant, you may then be able to separate them into two clumps with your fingers or you may need to split them with a spade. Re-plant both parts as soon as possible and water them well.
Many perennials such as lavender and poppies produce easy to collect seeds. Only take seed from healthy plants. With lavender and similar seedheads, pick them while still a little green and dry them out in a warm place. Shake seeds into a paper bag, and store them in the fridge prior to re-planting the following spring.
If you’ve still got any fruit or vegetables growing in the garden, such as late raspberries or pototoes, pick them now before insects and wet weather spoil them. Squashy soft fruit past its best can be made into jam, although you might need to add some extra pectin. Store potatoes in paper sacks in a cool, dark, dry place.
Clean out sheds and greenhouses, ready for use in spring. Put away any unsown seeds, clean and oil tools and hang them up, make any repairs, empty and clean plant pots and put them away.
To make sure you’ve got a display of colour in the garden next spring, now’s the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils, crocuses, narsissi and snowdrops. Choose healthy bulbs and plant them at a depth of around three times their diameter. To encourage growth, plant them with the root (flat) side down, but don’t worry too much – bulbs will find their own way to grow.
Clear fallen leaves from lawns, as otherwise they’ll start to damage the grass. This is a job for mid to late autumn, and you’ll probably need to do it several times. If you have room, compost leaves to make mulch for the following year. If you decide to rake them into a pile and burn them, try to do so quickly as otherwise small hibernating animals such as hedgehogs may move in and get caught in the fire.
…any houseplants or tender plants such as geraniums that have spent the summer outside. If you can, try to stagger the transition so they can acclimatise. You can start to water house plants more sparingly now, and don’t feed them as they’re not actively growing. Bring in a pot or two of herbs, such as hardy thyme, to keep on the kitchen windowsill over the winter.