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Preparing your garden for autumn and winter

9th August 2023
Redrow - Inspiration - Preparing your garden for autumn and winter

Summer’s not over yet, but the weather will soon be turning cooler. Before the leaves start changing to stunning autumnal shades, read our guide to making the most of your garden this autumn and beyond.

Aside from gardening itself, there are some general garden maintenance tasks to undertake in autumn and winter.

  1. Put away any garden furniture that won’t be used during the colder months. This could simply mean adding a waterproof cover or removing any soft furnishings and stowing them away until the warmer weather returns.
  2. Clear the patio or decking of any fallen leaves, perhaps using a leaf blower. Then pressure wash it clean to remove any marks left behind by organic materials or the furniture you’ve moved.
  3. Check your tools for any damage and make repairs as required, perhaps tightening the handle on a spade or sharpening secateurs.
  4. Safeguard against potential damage to pipes during the colder months by isolating and covering your outside tap. Watch this handy video about caring for your taps at winter.

Redrow - Inspiration - Preparing your garden for autumn and winter - Garden

How to prepare your garden for autumn and winter

Preparing for the changing seasons will help your garden flourish all year round. Carry out these garden jobs for autumn to ensure your garden is winter-ready.

  1. Lavish some love on your lawn. Continue mowing until September but leave the grass slightly longer on the final cut. Scarify your lawn by raking up any dead grass. Rake any fallen leaves into the border for natural insulation against frost. Top dress your lawn with compost, soil or sand. If you’re reseeding all or part of your lawn, this can be mixed into the top dressing to save time. Adding a lawn feed will help prepare and protect your lawn ahead of the cold winter months. If you’re wondering, can you lay turf in winter, the answer is yes, providing the ground isn’t frozen. This will help the roots settle in time for spring.
  2. Plant spring bulbs and transplant existing plants. Gardener and writer Arthur Parkinson recommends planting hardy perennials (plants that return year on year). He explained: “With proper care the plant will grow exponentially. Perennials that give the sought-after ‘cottage garden’ look include bearded iris, hellebores and echinops.” Attractive winter flowers and evergreen shrubs will keep your garden busy during autumn and fend off that stark empty winter look. Options for autumn flowering plants include liriope muscari (also known as lilyturf or blue lilyturf,) asters and Japanese anemones.

  3. Prune hedges, bushes and shrubs. Maintenance trimming of hedges can be done just once a year and it’s important to wait until after nesting season, which usually runs until August. The main upright of deciduous trees and shrubs should be cut back from November to March. Evergreens should be pruned after flowering and not during autumn or winter as this could potentially damage them.
  4. Dig ground that will be bare over winter. It’s best to cultivate clay soil in autumn so the frost then breaks up the soil during the winter, improving its structure. Light, sandy soils can also be dug, providing it’s not waterlogged or frozen. Although this type of soil is best dug in spring.
  5. Treat your garden with some of the compost you’ve collected over the year and add some mulch on top to improve garden soil over the winter. Turn the remaining compost before adding your garden waste to the pile. Rake leaves after it’s rained and add them to your compost while they’re damp.
  6. Protect plants from frost: This could mean moving pots into a more sheltered area or into a greenhouse. Reuse old newspaper as an eco-friendly crop cover by laying it over plants when frost is forecast. Alternatively, you could use bracken, straw, hessian or fleece to insulate plants. These should be removed during milder spells to prevent sweating and rotting.
  7. Keeping on top of gardening tasks in autumn and into winter will mean that as spring approaches, you’ll simply need to spring clean the garden by weeding and tidying up.

How to welcome wildlife into your garden

In the autumn some of the wildlife we see in our gardens, including hedgehogs, dormice and bats, are preparing for winter hibernation by fattening themselves up. Species that don’t hibernate such as birds and squirrels, will be seeking much-needed food in readiness for winter when food is naturally scarce. To give them a helping hand try:

  1. Setting up feeding stations for birds, squirrels and other animals. Remember to refill to help them refuel over the winter months when food is likely to be scarce.
  2. Stopping any water features or ponds you have from freezing, to welcome amphibious friends like frogs and newts. When the leaves start falling from the trees you’ll need to use a net to scoop them out of the pond to prevent them from sinking and rotting in the pond.
  3. Making a woodpile in a shady or corner that will stay cool and damp. This will help provide a habitat for mosses, lichens and fungi, as well as many insects. In turn, this will support other wildlife such as birds who will feed on insects living in the old wood.
  4. Building a bug hotel. This is a fun activity children will enjoy helping with and can be easily created using some drilled logs or cane sticks. Little ones will also love watching the minibeasts settling into their new home.
  5. Saying no to pesticides and herbicides and using organic alternatives to weed killers. Arthur recommends using household vinegar. “It’s far less aggressive and does the job without damaging the biodiversity in your garden,” he explained.
  6. A hanging basket with winter berries is a great way of adding colour to your outdoor space, while also providing a source of food for birds and squirrels. Festive favourites holly and mistletoe are easy to grow winter berries, along with boxberry, snowberry, skimmia and viburnum.
  7. Growing your own herbs to add flavour to your food and to support pollinators. “Rosemary, marjoram, lavender, mint or sage are great choices for busy gardeners who wish to offer nectar-rich plants to their local wildlife,” Arthur added. 

Redrow - Inspiration - Preparing your garden for autumn and winter - Wildflower garden

How to make the most of your garden in autumn

Entertaining and relaxing in the garden doesn’t have to stop because the weather’s turning colder and the darker nights are drawing in. With these top tips you can enjoy your outside space all year round:

  1. Add outdoor lights to prolong the time you can spend in the garden in the evenings. But be mindful that wildlife prefers dark gardens at night. Arthur said: “Excess light can be harmful to insects. So have your garden lighting on dimmers or timers so that your garden can properly go to sleep.”
  2. A fire pit or chiminea can help keep you warm when the sun’s gone down. Add to the cosy ambience with some garden blankets or throws.
  3. Cook alfresco with a barbecue, smoker or pizza oven. You can always go inside to eat if you’re feeling the chill.

If you’re looking for more garden inspiration, we’ve put together 6 outdoor garden social space ideas to help you make the most of your outside space.

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