Think about giv­ing wildlife a break be­fore you clear up

Amateur Gardening - - This Week In Gardening -

WE’RE all in cut­ting-back mode at the mo­ment be­cause the gar­den’s fad­ing away be­fore our very eyes. My mini-meadow, con­tain­ing wild­flow­ers and cul­ti­vated hardy or­chids, got its yearly trim in early Septem­ber. The de­bris was left for a day or two, to al­low any seeds to drop, and then all the ma­te­rial was added to the com­post heap be­fore it be­gan to rot down.

This mini-meadow is not a large area, about 20x15ft (6x4½m), so we hand-clip it rather than mow it. This may seem oner­ous, but one year we caught a frog in the mower blades. Strim­mers cause sim­i­lar in­juries – so it’s snip­ping for us. A friend went to a sum­mer bar­be­cue and the techie owner – a chap, of course – had one of those mow­ers that cuts on its own. It made short work of a hedge­hog, so I won’t be hav­ing one of those!

Last year, we were late cut­ting back the meadow and it was the end of Septem­ber. Ev­ery tus­sock seemed to con­tain a ground bee­tle and even hand­snip­ping was dif­fi­cult be­cause I didn’t want to cut off any of their legs. I leave gar­den edges alone un­til spring so th­ese crea­tures have some refuges.

Once the meadow is cut, I tidy the spring gar­den be­cause bulbs in that area spurt into growth in au­tumn. If I ti­died up in spring I’d tram­ple them to death. Once the spring gar­den is tidy, I move on to the sum­mer bor­ders where I have lots of herba­ceous pe­onies. They be­gin to en­ter dor­mancy in Au­gust and their fo­liage looks tatty by then, so I’m happy to cut them back. Pe­onies are not good ad­di­tions to an au­tumn bor­der for this rea­son – they fade early.

My au­tumn bor­der con­tains late-sum­mer and au­tumn plants, and many have woody stems able to per­sist through win­ter, so tiny in­sects roost in them. I don’t cut this down un­til early spring and I prop the stems up at the back of the bor­der in the hope that any in­sects can find shel­ter in the stems. Those stems stay in place un­til spring ar­rives.

Hav­ing three main ar­eas ded­i­cated to spring, sum­mer and au­tumn helps to spread my work­load. The spring area is tack­led in Septem­ber, the sum­mer bor­ders fol­low, and the au­tumn bor­der waits un­til Fe­bru­ary or later if the weather’s cold. Some gar­den­ers try to make bor­ders that cover four sea­sons, but this isn’t sen­si­ble when it comes to gar­den main­te­nance.

“Pe­onies are not good ad­di­tions to an au­tumn bor­der as they fade early”

The au­tumn bor­der lingers late and keeps the gar­den go­ing. It’s cut back in spring, says Val

Leave some gar­den edges, so in­sects such as ground bee­tles can find shel­ter

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