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5 steps to a winter-ready garden

Good Housekeeping UK logo Good Housekeeping UK 4 days ago Emilie Martin
a person sitting in a tree © FilippoBacci - Getty Images

As the days get shorter and the main growing season draws to a close, now’s the time to get your garden ready for winter.

We asked RHS Chief Horticulturalist Guy Barter for his advice on the essential jobs we should be tackling now before the cold weather really sets in.

             

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1. Rake leaves off the lawn

The battle to keep the lawn free from autumn leaves will be familiar to most gardeners. ‘Leaves shade out the grass underneath, leading to poor growth, disease and bare patches,’ says Guy. If you have lots of deciduous trees in your garden – or if your garden is surrounded by trees – a leaf blower could be a good investment. The Honda Cordless Leaf Blower HHBE 81 BE and Ego LB575OE Blower are tried and tested by the GHI!

Getty © Getty Getty

Autumn leaves are a good addition to the compost heap but can also provide valuable shelter and for insects and nest material for hibernating hedgehogs in the colder months. Gather fallen leaves into a pile in a quiet corner of the garden and leave it untouched until spring.

2. Don’t rush into pruning and clearing

The WWF warns that the UK is now one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. Before you start cutting back plants that have passed their prime, spare a thought for the wildlife in your garden.

Guy offers the following suggestions: ‘Delay pruning berrying plants so birds can strip the berries and aim to cut back plants with seed heads as late as possible to provide bird cover. In the veg garden leave weeds and spent crops as long as feasible – these provide a surprising amount of cover and feed for wildlife, especially birds.’ Hollow-stems and seed heads also provide a cosy winter home for small insects and spiders that could help control pests next year.

When you do cut back shrubs, use larger branch offcuts to create a logpile to provide shelter for hedgehogs and bugs.

a small bird sitting on a branch: Robin Erithacus rubecula on a spade handle in the snow © carlp778 - Getty Images Robin Erithacus rubecula on a spade handle in the snow

3. Clean your greenhouse

Pick a mild, dry day and start by taking everything out. Sweep up debris from the summer growing season then clean the panes and the frame using hot water with a little detergent added and a stiff brush. Guy recommends using a plastic plant label to scrape between overlapping panes where algae can build up. Follow up by wiping down the greenhouse with a garden disinfectant.

A pressure washer will speed up the job but be gentle if your greenhouse has a wooden frame and putty holding the panes in place.

4. Clean out the water butt

It’s certainly not the most glamorous of jobs but cleaning out the water butt can help stop the spread of root rot and prevent blockages.

‘If your water butt contains sediment, tip out the water and hose down the inside,’ Guy advises. ‘Wash out gutters if possible after leaf fall to be rid of dirt and leaves that could fetch up in the butt. Clean filters on the filler pipes or use an old pair of tights to make a filter to catch any leaves or nuisance material.’

Getty © Getty Getty

5. Clean garden tools

Finally, clean hand tools that have done good service throughout the year before putting them away until spring. Cleaning can make them last longer, work more efficiently and will help stop the spread of plant diseases. Use a stiff brush and a solution of detergent to remove soil, then dry immediately with an old towel. Follow up by wiping wooden handles and metal surfaces with a general-purpose oil.

To remove sap from secateurs, the RHS suggests using a little WD-40 and a nylon pan scourer.

Watch: This is how often you should be washing your bathroom towels [Southern Living]

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