Autumn’s here and the leaves are falling. What can you do to keep your garden in tip-top condition for next year? Garden Designer and Landscaper James Firth, of London-based Firth Gardens, gives us five tips…
1 Tidy up and clean up.
Keep leaves off paths and lawns where they cause problems, but don’t worry too much about borders. Once the leaves carpet the soil they look attractive as well as providing a mulch that will keep weeds down next year and add useful organic matter to enrich your garden’s soil.
Clean paths and decks. Dirt and algae can make surfaces slippery and tired-looking. Pressure washers do a remarkable job of removing this, but will lift loose pointing if it’s getting weak, and can roughen the surface of softwood decks that makes them weather faster. Cautious application of bleach or swimming pool chlorine can clean Yorkstone or Indian sandstone paths very well, but it is caustic, can harm plants as well as ourselves and our pets, can discolour other kinds of stone, and smells awful for a few days! Please make sure that your ‘Indian stone’ is indeed sandstone and not the similar looking limestone.
The best time to do this is when the leaves have just finished falling, as the surfaces tend to stay clean for several months afterwards.
2 Plant Up: here’s a simple guide to timing your planting.
Trees, roses, and fruit bushes: From leaf fall until late February. Roses can go in a little later.
Shrubs and perennials in pots: autumn is ideal, but spring planting is fine as long as you remember to keep watering them until they are well established.
Bulbs: daffodils, crocuses and tulips can be planted from September onwards. If planted late they will still flower well although a bit later, but will take longer to naturalise in the garden afterwards. Snowdrops are best planted after flowering ‘in the green’, they really do not establish well from dry bulbs. Seek advice about lilies and exotic bulbs.
3 Don’t be too ruthless with the shears!
Most modern planting schemes are designed to withstand the winter weather and extend the pleasure you can get from your garden through the dark months. They also provide food for birds and safe havens for overwintering wildlife until the warm weather returns, so unless your herbaceous planting is looking too beaten about try leaving it standing until the spring and see how it performs with the winter sun on it.
4 Plan your garden makeover now.
If you are thinking of changing your garden, winter is a good time to get it done. Landscapers rarely have too much work at this time, so waiting times are short and rates are often lower. Remember that spring is the busiest time for landscapers so you may have trouble finding somebody in that season, and some will charge higher rates for work at this time.
5 Winter Watering
Pots and especially window boxes need watering even when it’s raining. The water doesn’t reach the soil and they can dry out quickly and lose their charm. Of course we don’t need to water as much as the weather gets colder, and not if there is frost or snow around.
Turn your automatic watering off. If you have tap mounted auto-watering controllers, remember to take them in for the winter, and as an added precaution take the batteries out. They must be kept away from frost which destroys them.
Although it’s getting cold and rainy, a little care and attention spent on your garden now will reap rewards in the coming seasons!
James Firth set up Firth Gardens design and consultancy in 1984. He takes on projects for town and country gardens, in whatever style suits the clients’ needs. Also garden construction, hard and soft landscaping and garden maintenance. Specialist projects include the design of environmentally sensitive filtration systems for Koi ponds.
For other contacts see also our garden designers category on The House Directory. We can also help you source antique and new garden furniture, outdoor paving, pots & planters, and specialist nurseries.