Autumn is the time to put your garden safely to bed for the winter
AUTUMN, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is the time to put your garden safely to bed for the winter, ensuring that when spring comes around again, you won’t be overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done.
Raking leaves, tidying and cutting back plants and storing away furniture, tools and pots are among the necessary tasks at this time of year, as the nights draw in and the days become colder.
Autumn is a very good time for transplanting work because the soil is softer and has sufficient moisture from rain showers. It is also warm from the summer, providing plants with the right environment to get used to their new position and form new roots.
New plants can also be planted at this time of year, giving the last chance to bring some colour into your garden before winter takes everything in its icy grasp. Visit your local garden centre for an array of autumnal plants including late season hanging baskets and window boxes that will brighten up your borders, patio or decking and offset the dreariness of frosty mornings and damp days.
Spring flowering bulbs can also be planted now so that their flowers germinate from the soil at the right time in spring to surprise you with a blaze of colour. The shops are currently filled with spring bulbs of every variety.
Root ball plants and mature specimen trees and shrubs are best planted in the dormant season between late autumn and late winter.
It’s also the time to cut back herbaceous perennials, bushes and shrubs. When shrubs go yellow, when their stems bend towards the ground or they start to seed, they need to be cut back, as the plants are now drawing their sap back into the roots. If they are not cut down, they may decay.
Established bushes and shrubs can be cut to approximately a quarter of their size, depending on the type of plant - your garden centre will give you advice if you need it.
Hedges should be pruned for the last time in autumn to prevent decaying if damp accumulates. Cut deciduous hedges without creating holes as they will not grow back over the winter and they may look very bare.
Continue to dead head herbaceous plants such as dahlias to encourage flowering well into autumn. Give a couple of liquid feeds to strengthen the plants’ energy levels.
Any leaves lying on the hedge should be removed as the hedge will not get enough fresh air and light and could rot.
Don’t forget your lawn which will may still need cutting for several more weeks well into November depending on the weather. In Ireland, the moist and mild conditions mean that the grass season can be a month longer than the gardening books advise. Don’t put the cover on the lawn mower just yet.
Wet conditions, low temperatures and weak sunshine can affect the lawn which
may need some attention before the really cold spell begins.
When leaves fall, they should be cleared from the lawn on a regular basis as they will quickly turn to mush and become unsightly.
For the last cut, make sure that the grass is not cut shorter than 5 cm as longer grass can make better use of less sunlight, ensuring resistance against weeds and moss. Using an autumn fertiliser is also recommended.
If you have a moss problem, you can start treating it now with sulphate of iron which will blacken the moss and require raking out afterwards.
Seed collecting can also be done - herbaceious plants like foxgloves will self seed but if you want to control their spread, remove seed heads and dry them out for sowing later.
Even if it rains, you should still regularly water plans in pots. Liquid feed bedding plants to stop them looking tired and encourage them to produce flowers for another while.