Gardening jobs for autumn winter have changed. We’re all more relaxed now. Many of us don’t dig up our dahlias. We don’t clear away flower-heads – we love the shapes that dead hydrangeas and thalictrum make in the frost. We leave our ornamental grasses unclipped so that the low winter sun can sparkle through the delicate fronds. And, as for clearing away leaves – we just brush them into the borders where they turn into a warm mulch, protecting wildlife and plants alike.
But that doesn’t mean that there’s no gardening in autumn and winter. My top 8 jobs are:
1. Prune trees, shrubs and bushes. Once the leaves are off, you can see the shapes of the branches. Work with the natural shape of the tree or shrub – don’t cut off branches halfway along. Cut them off where they meet a bigger branch or the trunk.
2. But make sure that you leave some lush hedges or trees for birds to nest in – don’t strip everything back at once. I rotate my pruning so that there is always a muddle somewhere for the sparrows to call home.
3. Wash and tidy away pots. I re-use all the plastic pots I get when I buy plants, but soak them in a bucket with a mild solution of bleach to prevent any cross-infection. Terracotta pots may absorb the bleach, however.
4. Buying lots of wine for Christmas? Instead of throwing away the boxes, open them out and use them to cover empty veg beds. You’ll keep light away from weed seeds and the cardboard will mulch down gradually. You can do the same with old carpets.
5. Plant for next year. The best time to plant roses, shrubs and trees is between October and April (though be sensible – not in awful weather). Plants will need less watering if planted in autumn. Consult your local nursery to check individual planting times.
6. Winter veg to plant in autumn includes perpetual spinach, mizuna and mustard lettuces, plus rhubarb for next year.
7. Buy bulbs in the sales and plant them late. I’ve had success with tulips planted in December and daffs in January – but I can’t guarantee it. Depends on the weather and where you live.
8. Buy catalogues, use the right gardening gear and make endless plans, preferably over huge mugs of tea and buttery toast.
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