Preparing Your Garden for Winter (and next Spring)
Kieran Gallagher, Cardwell Garden Centre
As I write this the view from my office at Cardwell Garden Centre is one of decidious trees beginning to show signs that autumn is imminent. The lush green leaves are just starting to show shades of yellow, brown and red and some have already fallen off.
I enjoy autumn; it’s nature’s harvest time and there is an abundance of high quality vegetables available from local stores. I say this every year, but the quality of locally, or even better, home grown, fruit and vegetables is far superior to anything you can buy in a supermarket.
Although the leaves will not be green much longer, the display that nature puts on is stunning in its own right. The few weeks inbetween the leaves turning and falling off is a time to savour, as the downside to autumn is what is sure to follow – winter!
Falling leaves should be cleared away as soon as you can. They can cause problems in the garden, from making paths, drives and especially wooden decking slippy underfoot, to blocking gutters and cluttering up beds and lawns. We sell a great product at Cardwell called Algon which is perfect for cleaning decking and paths. It’s easy to use, so you don’t have to worry about dangerous chemicals. You can compost fallen leaves, providing they are free from disease, in either your own garden or your brown bins.
Greenhouses, cold frames and propagators should be cleaned before beginning your next batch of seeds or plants. Jeyes Fluid or Armillatox are ideal for this.
Beds and borders that have been used for growing fruit and vegetables should be reinvigorated with the addition of manure or something similar which is rich in nutrients. If you do use manure, it should be well rotted and mature. Fresh manure is too high in chemicals like ammonia and will cause your soil to become unbalanced.
Inexpensive bags of farm manure are available now at Cardwell. Digging it in now gives it time to break down in the soil for planting in spring.
An old method to reinvigorate the soil, is to plant ‘green manure’ seeds in your empty beds. Green manure is bought as seeds and are sown liberally over the area to be treated.
The exact variety of the seeds will vary, but often include mustard, cress or herbs. The green manure is quick growing – if you plant now, in early autumn, they should grow within a few weeks.
They are hardy plants and should be left in the ground over winter. You don’t need to do anything to them, just let them grow.
In early spring, when you want to get the area ready, run a strimmer or mower over the area and leave it for a couple of days for the plants to wilt. Once they have wilted, simply dig into the soil. The plants will break down in just a few weeks and release high amounts of nutrients, particularly nitrogen, and you are ready to plant.
You should not be cutting your lawn anymore and don’t worry about any weeds in the grass. They will die back soon and it is too cold for weedkillers to work effectively now anyway.You can treat the moss in the lawn though, and all lawns will benefit from a treatment of autumn lawn food.
Finally, remember our feathered friends will need a little extra help over the winter. High fat peanuts, seeds and suet balls provide much needed energy for the birds, so please give them a hand for the next few months.