Most of us give our lawns a final mow during October or November and then leave our gardens to fend for themselves over the bitter winter months. But Lincolnshire garden designer Gardner Designs says spending a little longer preparing your outside space for the colder weather will help it to look its best come spring, while clever planting will ensure you have a green garden to enjoy throughout the year.
1. Paths and paving
Clear up all the leaves and debris once the trees are bare (it’s much easier while everything is still crisp and dry). It’s also worth giving your paving a thorough clean with a stiff brush and some soapy water before the frost arrives so it will be less slippery and safer during the wet winter months. Alternatively, if you have one, just give it a blast with a pressure washer.
Cut back the herbaceous perennials in your borders close to the ground as they begin to die down and remove annuals that have finished their show. It’s also well worth generally tidying up your borders by removing any dead foliage, leaves and weeds.
Now is the time to empty out your compost bins of old, well-rotted material and spread all over the fresh soil to set it up for the spring and make it look presentable during the bare winter months. Your compost bins can then be filled up again with this year’s waste ready to become next year’s bounty. Just be sure to dispose of your weeds separately.
3. Shrubs and trees
Prune any wayward branches on your structural shrubs to improve the overall shape and, if they need it, give your hedges a final trim before the frosts hit. Remove any dead, diseased or damaged branches, particularly with your trees, to prevent the stems from rubbing together and creating wounds or deformities.
4. Garden structures
Once your borders and structural shrubs and trees have been cut back, it’s a good opportunity to gain easy access to carry out any maintenance work that may be required on your summerhouse, greenhouse or fencing. Keep a particular eye out for any decaying timber or pest infestations and treat or replace accordingly.
5. Plant protection
Move any pots planted with tender species like Cannas, Agapanthus or palms, into a conservatory or greenhouse for winter protection. Wrap horticultural fleece around the trunks of any palm trees planted in the ground and spread a thick mulch of bark around the base of these and any other delicate trees, like Japanese maples, to protect them from the frost.
6. Ponds and water features
Try to prevent your pond or water feature clogging up with leaves by temporarily covering in a net during ‘the fall’. If your pond hasn’t been cleaned in a number of years and is beginning to look murky, then late autumn is the ideal time to tackle it while many creatures are becoming dormant. If there are fish in your pond, then try to be vigilant during frosts to ensure that the water’s surface doesn’t completely freeze over, even if you just have a ball on standby to float on the water’s surface it will help.
Go over your entire lawn with a scarifying or springtine rake to remove thatch and moss to allow it to breathe and grow more freely. If you do have a large amount of moss invading your green space, then there’s a good chance that you have drainage issues – a session with a lawn spike aerator or even just a standard garden fork across the area will help considerably. Combine with specially produced autumn lawn feed and moss killer products to give your lawn all the help you can.
Plant out your spring bulbs before the winter kicks in. From snowdrops to crocus and daffodils, they all like well-fertilised, free-draining soil, so dig in lots of sharp sand and some bone meal for a slow release of nutrients that will feed the bulbs over a long period. When planting bulbs, the general rule of thumb is to plant at two or three times the depth of the bulb itself. Spacing also works well at two or three times the width of the bulb, and for the most natural and dramatic effect, plant the same variety of bulb in large drifts.
9. Snow alert
It cannot be overstated how devastating heavy and prolonged periods of snow and ice can be to the trees and plants in your garden. If you simply knock off the snow resting on the leaves and branches of your prized specimens while it’s still soft and fresh there is a good chance that you will be preventing severe damage and possible fatalities – so it’s worth staying on alert when the white stuff arrives.
10. Winter greenery
Just because the winter is a time of dormancy for many living things doesn’t mean that your garden can’t still be interesting and exciting. Incorporate architectural evergreen shrubs like the Phormium tenax to add crucial structure alongside deciduous shrubs like the Cornus sanguine ‘Midwinter Fire’ to set the winter border alight with it’s gorgeous flame-coloured stems.