As summer draws to a close, your summer sanctuary transforms into a surprisingly low-maintenance retreat, perfect for laying the foundations for the year ahead.
As now is the ideal time to ensure you have a good shot at show-garden perfection next year, I've put together a list of inspirational ideas and top tips to help you get your garden ready this autumn.
- Bring indoors any houseplants that have been in the garden during the summer and check them for pests – spraying if necessary. Don't forget to look at the bottom of the pot, that’s where slugs and snails love to hide!
- Lift the last potatoes before the slugs get to them. Ideally dig them up on a sunny morning and leave them on the soil to dry out completely during the day, before popping in to a paper bag and then storing in a cool shed or garage.
- Preserve some herbs to use in winter by chopping them up finely, adding to ice cube trays and pouring in a little water before putting them in the freezer. Then, just pop the cubes into stews or sauces to give them a really fresh herb flavour.
- As the summer bedding plants begin to fade, dig out and fill the gaps with polyanthus and pretty pansies like these on the left. The sooner these are planted, the better the display will be next spring.
- Get those green tomatoes red before the weather turns cold by hanging a couple of bananas by the plants. The bananas give off a gas which will encourage the tomatoes to ripen faster.
- Cut off yellowing, dying and dead leaves from water lilies and other pond plants. Then cover the pond with netting to stop the leaves from falling in and clogging it up during the autumn.
- Got a shrub growing in the wrong spot? It’s the best time of year to move it! Simply dig up and re-plant with plenty of compost or well rotted manureon top. Keep it well watered.
Give your lawn a late season boost by feeding with it with Richard Jackson's Lawn Magic. The feed will turn it a glorious green and help it to look better next year.
- Prepare for the cold weather by insulating the greenhouse with bubble wrap. Turn off outdoor taps at the stop cock or protect them with lagging. Drain hosepipes and put them in the shed.
- Over winter, plant young rooted geranium cuttings in a light, cool and frost-free spot. Keep them fairly dry as they’ll rot if they are over watered. Take off any leaves that turn yellow.
- Pick any remaining apples and pears before the weather turns. Eat any windfalls or damaged fruit and don’t try to store these as they’ll rot. Any surplus autumn ripening raspberries can be frozen.
- The grass is still growing – although slowly – so will need a light trim from time to time. Raise the cutting height to 4cm (1.5") so you don’t cut too much off. Brush off any wormcasts before mowing or they’ll get squashed and form muddy patches.
- Check the ties and stakes on young trees and make sure they are secure. Climbing plants like this Samaritan Jo clematis may need tying back to prevent them getting damaged in winter gales.
- Prune buddleia, shrubby mallow (lavatera) and tall rose bushes with these pruners by a third to lessen the chance of wind damage over winter.
- Don’t chuck away grow-bags once the tomatoes have finished. Whip out the old plants, sprinkle in 85g (3oz) of Growmore Fertiliser and re-plant them with pansies for a splash of extra colour next spring.
- It’s the best time of year for planting trees, roses (like those pictured on the left), hedges, shrubs and most kinds of fruit. The plants will settle in over winter and get off to a great start next season.
- November is the ideal time to plant tulips. Most other bulbs prefer to be in by now, but if tulips are planted any earlier than November their shoots can get damaged by cold weather and fungal diseases.
- Sow broad beans for the earliest crops next June. For best results, plant in well drained soil in a warm, sheltered spot.
- Check your shed is watertight before the winter rain really starts. Any leaks in the roof can be repaired with roofing felt.
- Don’t slip up this winter. Make patios, paths and steps safer by giving them a good scrubbing with warm water and washing up liquid to remove any moss or algae.
- Get the mower serviced soon before you need it after Christmas. If the weather’s mild, the grass will still grow so you might need it back sooner than you think!
- If you’re not using your pond pump over winter, take it out, clean the filter and store it in the shed.
- Give the pond a tidy up, remove dead and dying leaves and feed the fish if the weather is mild.
- Houseplants hate the winter, especially those in centrally-heated rooms where the air gets very dry. Help them out by placing them on trays or saucers of gravel. Keep the gravel moist (but not waterlogged) and the humidity will perk up the plants as well as keep pests away.
- Tidy up with this excellent lightweight rake from Golden Gark picured on the left and use fallen leaves as compost for flower borders. Left on the lawn, they'll look messy and also provide a shelter for unwanted wintering slugs and snails!