8 expert autumn gardening tips
Autumn is the perfect time to tidy up your garden and get all your ducks in a row in time for spring. There's plenty to do from caring for your lawn to planting nectar-rich bulbs and we've listed our top 8 autumn gardening tips to help you on your way.
When we think of gardening, we usually picture a warm spring morning planting flowers and watering shrubs while the birds sing and the sun shines. But according to the RHS, autumn is actually the best season to be gardening.
It’s a chance to clear away any wilted plants, tidy up and prepare for a flourishing spring garden. So, we’ve prepared a number of expert gardening tips for autumn to help you do just that.
1. Have a clear-out
Give your borders a clear-out by digging up all your wilted annuals to make room for new plants and flowers.
Pluck out any dying leaves and give your perennials a little trim back. Try not to trim them too closely as lots of wildlife like to use bushes and shrubs for shelter during the winter, plus any seedheads will be a tasty meal for the birds. 😋
After pulling out old plants and pruning your perennials, don’t forget to tend to any potted bulbs.
Lift them out, give them a clean and trim back their roots. Remove any loose outer layers and separate the offsets (large clusters of smaller bulbs).
Discard any damaged or diseased bulbs and lay the healthy ones separately on a tray to dry for around 24 hours to stop fungal rot. Then, store them in a cool, dry place over the winter and plant them again in the spring.
2. Plant evergreens, nectar-rich bulbs & winter crops
While the leaves drop and the colour in your garden slowly fades away, it can end up looking a little dreary throughout the winter. Fortunately, there’s plenty of plants suitable to give your outdoor space some interest and colour until spring.
Planting flowers like pansies, cyclamens, violas or bellis daisies will give your outdoor space vibrant, uplifting colour to get you through any gloomy weather and give you something to look at from indoors.
If you’d rather plant greenery and shrubs, try yew, euonymus or fragrant daphne for lush green colour and interest during the winter. Planting fruit bushes like blackberries and raspberries will also grant you delicious fruit in the summer and help to fill in any large gaps left behind by your annuals.
Along with planting for colour in the winter, add spring bulbs like daffodils, crocus and tulips to your borders now to be rewarded with beautiful blooms in early spring.
There’s plenty of crops that can be planted in autumn and left to grow over winter, either in your vegetable patch, borders or a greenhouse to enjoy next spring and summer.
Onions, broad beans, peas, carrots and garlic can all be planted now, with the latter two best grown under cloches to protect them from harsh winter weather and pests.
Once you’ve finished and all your new plants are in the ground, tuck them in with a thick layer of compost to insulate them and let the worms dig it in for you. You might want to turn over your compost heap while you’re at it to help it decompose.
3. Lawn care
By tending to your lawn now, you’ll give it the best chance at surviving the winter and keep it looking nice and healthy.
Clear away fallen leaves
Start by clearing away any fallen leaves, moss and thatch with a rake. Be mindful not to disturb any hibernating wildlife that might have taken up residence in the leaves, then rake it all into a shaded area and leave to one side (we’ll make use of this later).
Once clear, give your lawn its final cut of the year on a higher setting than normal, as leaving it a little taller will let it get some extra sunlight and remain happy until spring.
Aerate your lawn
Aeration is when small holes are inserted into the ground to help improve air circulation. By adding holes to your lawn, you’ll be releasing stale carbon dioxide and allowing fresh oxygen in, while giving the roots better access to water and nutrients.
To aerate your lawn, cut it the day before and water it if it’s particularly dry. It’s best to scarify it first to remove any dead grass and debris, but this step isn’t necessary.
You can use a few tools to aerate your lawn, like aerator shoes that simply slip over your shoes and feature inch long spikes to aerate your lawn while you walk.
You can also buy machine aerators, which are similar to lawnmowers and will be more effective in larger gardens however, they are a more expensive method of aerating your lawn. Alternatively, you can simply poke a garden fork into your lawn at regular intervals, though you might be there for a while if your garden is on the larger side.
Cut the edges with an edging tool to leave them looking neat and tidy and use a strimmer to tidy up the edges before popping your lawnmower away for the winter.
Lastly, give your lawn a good feed to boost its growth and strengthen it and ff all else fails, autumn also happens to be the best time to lay new turf and start again!
4. Make leafmould
Raking all those fallen leaves, wasn’t for nothing! They can be recycled and used to help your plants grow.
Fallen leaves from deciduous trees like hornbeam, beech, oak and alder are perfect for making leafmould, which can be used as mulch or soil improver. It doesn’t hold as many nutrients as compost, but it still works brilliantly for mulching flowerbeds and suppressing weeds. Its dark colour also offsets winter greenery rather well.
To make leafmould, rake all of your fallen leaves together and choose a sheltered spot that won’t spoil the view of your garden.
Then, either use bin bags with small holes in or create a large bin using chicken wire and wooden stakes. Fill your bin with the fallen leaves, sprinkle them with a little water and leave them for a minimum of two years. It might help to shred your leaves and water them during dry spells to speed up the decomposition process.
Once the leaves start to crumble, spread your leafmould throughout your borders to improve the soil structure.
5. Clean & repair
Before it gets too cold outside, now’s a good time to make any repairs to your shed, planters or greenhouse. Clean the windows in your greenhouse to maximise the amount of sunlight your plants receive and you can even try bubble-wrapping to conserve heat.
Give your gardening tools a good clean and sharpen shears and secateurs so they’re ready for action come springtime. It’s also best to get your lawnmower serviced before putting it away for the winter.
6. Give wildlife a helping hand
It’s not just plants that need caring for in the cold weather. The beginning of autumn means that lots of wildlife seek safe shelter and enter hibernation, while birds and other animals will struggle to find food and water as the weather turns colder.
Pop on some old washing up gloves and clear out empty nest boxes and bird feeders, and give them a good wash with hot water and a mild detergent, which will help birds to stay healthy. Replace any feeders that are damaged and once dry, replenish them with seed mix, mealworms and suet balls to keep them fed and see them through to the warmer months.
Hedgehog houses and undisturbed leaf piles will give wildlife a cosy place to hibernate over the winter. You can feed hedgehogs meat-based cat or dog food, as well as chopped boiled eggs and some fresh water on the ground (no milk).
Remember to leave out fresh water for all the wildlife and you could also invest in a birdbath to keep birds clean and healthy.
7. Clean your gutters
When your gutters fill with leaves and other debris, it can sometimes result in the water creeping in under your roof, which is why despite being a job that nobody wants to do, it’s important to clear them out at least once a year.
Make sure you have a sturdy ladder and lay down a tarp to collect all the debris. Scoop out any gutter gunk, sticks and leaves and flush out any remaining debris with a hose, which will also help you to spot any leaks.
Watch out for active bird nests while you’re cleaning. It’s an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 to damage or destroy an active bird nest with the penalty being an unlimited fine and/or up to 6 months imprisonment.
Repair any sagging gutters with gutter hangers and seal any holes and seams using a sealant. Check out a list of easy gutter fixes here.
8. Final tips
After all the digging, planting and cleaning there are just a few little jobs to round it all off and make sure you’re prepared for winter.
Make sure to net your pond to prevent any fallen leaves from dropping in and blocking the filter. Cover up your garden furniture or move it indoors to protect it from bad weather. And lastly, wrap any tender plants in fleece to protect them from frost and raise potted plants on pot feet to prevent waterlogging.
Rather do without the hassle?
Instead of all the watering, pruning, replanting and feeding, you can always go faux and enjoy a beautiful garden year-round without worrying about the weather. View our range of outdoor artificial plants, trees and flowers.