Autumn is here, and in November the daylight hours will grow noticeably shorter. The time has come to start sorting out the gardens.
The trees are turning now and will soon shed their leaves, no doubt a gale or two will help take them off quicker than we might like, after all the autumnal hues are one of the delights of the year. The Durham Botanical Gardens will be a gorgeous display of autumn colour about now.
Once the leaves have fallen it is a wise plan to sweep or rake them from lawns, if allowed to remain they will rot and make a mess. Leaves can be composted, but they can take a couple of years to rot down, using a strong black refuse sack, with a few air holes punched through, gather the leaves into the sack add a spoonful of accelerator and you will produce nice leaf mould. Do this each year and there will be a steady supply of fine compost – free. Be careful about burning leaves, they are hard to burn and they make an awful stink especially if damp, and hedgehogs and bugs like leaf litter to nest and forage in.
Whilst raking leaves it is a good move to remove growth from around fruit trees, by taking away the weeds (and suckers) and in clearing the bottom of the trees you will remove the pathway for bugs that will infest next years fruit otherwise. At the same time move rotten fruit from around the trees, windfalls that have been lived in by grubs, why not leave the fruit somewhere away from the trees so the birds, squirrels and even rabbits can tuck in.
Water buts, collect clean ‘soft’ water, if yours gets full use an old redundant dust bin alongside and scoop water from the water but into it to conserve more water. This water is better for the plants and will save a bob or two on the water bill, those of us who have a water meter will understand.
Garden water features, take the chance to clean them up now, scoop out the weed that will have grown, remove any dead leaves and weeds that may have nested among the marginal plants, and remember to have a ramp of some kind – brick or wood for hedgehogs to climb after they have taken a swim. Also, when ice forms, and it will soon enough, you can ease the ice using the ramp to allow animals and birds to drink.
Many people now feed the feathered garden visitors, but they forget about water. Birds need a drink, so if the frosts do bite and water dishes freeze over tip the ice out and give them some fresh water. Over wintering birds can die of thirst.
Finally, clean all of your garden tools with soapy water, rinse them and dry them and put them away ready for spring. In the process sharpen any tools that have a blade, clean cuts don’t carry diseases, mucky ones do.