Autumn garden tidy up

The nights are drawing in, leaves are starting to glow red and amber. Yes, it's that time of year to tidy up your garden. Now is the perfect time to store furniture, tools and barbecues away ready for next summer, tidy up beds and borders to keep flowers in bloom and plants cropping into the autumn, and make your garden a friendly haven for wildlife.

It might start to feel a bit chilly but your garden is still full of life. Keep mowing the lawn and dead-heading any flowers, there's always those surprisingly warm weekends late in September when you'll want to get out the barbecue before it's hibernation over winter. When the time does come to finally put the barbecue away, leave it out for 12 hours after use to ensure it has fully cooled down and then store it under a cover, tarpaulin or in the shed.

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  • Garden storage

    A shed is much like another room in the house. Use it to store your tools and furniture away for the winter. You may have been in and out of the shed over summer, so see if it can be tidied up a little before you fill it up as that way it will be clear and organised ready for you to grab the sunlounger out with ease when the summer sun returns. Have a think about what items you might need during the winter and place them within easy reach. A rake is good to keep to hand for the autumn leaves but you'll also want the sledge ready for first snowfall.

    If you don't have room for a shed but need some outside storage, there are plenty of smaller storage solutions. Bike sheds, bin shed, garden benches and cupboards can be ideal for small tools and toys. Using small storage is a good way to not overcrowd a small garden.

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As leaves start falling from the trees they will litter the garden, which can suffocate the beds below or kill crops with leaf mould. Use a leaf rake to sweep up fallen leaves; raking by hand means you can avoid delicate flowers and reach further into beds that might otherwise be difficult to get to. If your garden is a bit bigger in size or you're finding mobility a bit more challenging try using a garden vac or leaf blower.

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  • Composting

    Now is a great time to re-stock the compost heap with grass cuttings and fallen leaves to decompose over the winter months. These provide high carbon levels which are essential for plant fertiliser. Ideally shred the leaves to reduce their space and increase the speed of decomposition.

    Composting has many benefits for you and your garden. Compost provides a free nutritious fertiliser for your plants and flowers, and is great for the environment. It reduces waste sent to landfill and saves you needing to pop to the shops for compost and plant feeds so often!

    Composting is easy too, just put your garden waste in a bin or composter and leave it. It's easy to start a compost heap - you can either buy a compost bin to use, or you build one of your own with timber. Ideally your bin will be easily accessible, have a lid or cover to stop pests getting in and smells getting out, and have closed walls so nothing can seep out.

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  • Incinerating

    If you're trimming down larger amounts of plants or trees that will simply take too long on the compost heap, you can use an incinerator. Incinerators help you to get rid of larger volumes of waste quickly without the need to pay for disposal services, or having to take your waste to a disposal site. Incinerators are a confined way of burning garden waste, so that hot ashes can be contained and kept off the ground and the size of the fire stays manageable. Always use with buckets of water or a hosepipe nearby to put out any stray sparks, and keep the fire under control. Do not use in a small space or one overhung by trees.

    To increase the life of your incinerator, put it away under cover or in the shed when it cools down after use. This will slow down the rust which can take hold quickly if left outside unprotected.

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To keep plants happy as the temperature cools and autumn sets in, raise outdoor pots onto pot feet or bricks to avoid water logging. Insulate any outdoor pots staying out with winter jackets - a cloche is ideal for the job, otherwise garden fleece or bubble wrap works well. Bring any delicate plants inside, and once inside reduce watering to match plant requirements. As long as the soil remains moist then your plant should be just fine. Add simple bark mulch to your flower beds to act as a blanket and wrap up any young tree trunks, again fleece or bubble wrap will do the job.

Don't stop watering! Just because it may be raining more does not mean plants and spring bulbs are necessarily getting the water they need. Keep up regular watering in harmony with rain showers.

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As rain increases and leaves fall, your decking or patio can get slippery. Use a pressure washer to keep the surface clean, repeat every 2-3 months through the year.

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Use a decking and patio cleaner with your pressure washer to enhance the lifespan of your decking and give a better finished result by keeping the surface free from mould. If you don't have a pressure washer then these cleaners can also be used with an outdoor broom, water and some elbow grease!

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Now is a good time to clean out any bird boxes and feeders. Bird boxes can carry diseases, so cleaning them out will provide a fresh clean home for next year's chicks.

Continue to encourage birds into your garden, keep feeders and bird baths topped up. Birds enjoying a varied diet of insects, weed seeds and even some rodents. As these can damage your plants and beds, birds can act as a bodyguard's for your garden. They're cheaper than buying weed killers and pesticides, and more fun to watch.

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The summer may only just be coming to an end but now is the time to start thinking about next year. Whilst you're clearing the lawn and beds, have a think about what bulbs you'd like next year. They'll need sowing in October. It's also time to plan your fruit and vegetable garden, and work out when you'll need to start planting and propagating in the spring. Why not clean up pots, planters and propagators now ready to use next year?

  • Planting calendar

    Our handy planting calendar is packed full of information about which vegetables, fruit and herbs to plant, and when. It's never too early to start planning how your vegetable bed or containers will look next year. Now is the perfect time of year to review what worked this year - note down species you'd like to grow again, and look out for new ones you'd like to try.

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  • Spring flowering bulbs

    Early autumn is the ideal time to plant your bulbs ready for spring flowering. Colourful displays of daffodils, tulips and crocuses are easy to achieve and will bring your garden to life year after year. They're also easy to plant - simply follow the instructions on the pack.

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