End of Season Gardening Tasks

by mistyhorizon2003

The end of the summer is here and we are well into autumn. The colder weather is looming and you want to know what you need to do to prepare your garden for the winter ahead.

It won't be long now before the winter is here and most of us will be snuggled up indoors well away from the cold weather outside. Right now however, we are still in autumn and need to prepare our gardens for the winter that lies ahead. The nights are drawing in and the gardeners amongst us are well aware that we need to make the most of any daylight to finish off our gardening for the year, before retreating indoors to our seed catalogues and plans for next spring.

Preparing my garden for the winter is the task I have been tackling in recent weeks, although in my case it is mostly in the form of a large vegetable allotment and a greenhouse. However, this does not mean I am not fully aware of the tasks that need to be done in any type of garden in order to prepare it for the winter months. I have written this article as a guide for those who are unsure of what jobs they may have forgotten to complete in their own gardens, or even to suggest new ones they may not have thought of before.

The Vegetable Garden

If you grow vegetables at home and your vegetable garden looks anything like mine does right now, it is probably a bit of a mess. Weeds have filled in the areas where the vegetables have long since been harvested, the dying foliage from harvested pumpkins and butternut squashes stretches across large areas of the ground, and sad rows of bamboo canes wrestle with the wind, the remnants of climbing beans withering away upon them. Around the outside of the greenhouse container grown vegetables have died away leaving the planters full of redundant compost, and in the greenhouse the tomatoes are slowing to a crawl that barely warrants the effort of continuing to water them. Now is the time for you the gardener to take action.

1) Cut down any bamboo canes that are still standing and store them away in a shed to avoid them rotting.

2) Harvest any remaining crops such as butternut squash, pumpkins or leeks etc. You can store your pumpkins and butternut squash in a cool dry place for up to six months.

3) Remove any diseased foliage and burn it as opposed to composting it. Any healthy foliage need not be removed and can act as a green manure when incorporated into the soil.

4) Either dig over your allotment, or if it is really large rotavate it, either with a hand operated machine or by getting a tractor in to do this for you.

5) If at all possible mulch the land thickly with any of the following substances: Seaweed, spent compost, manure, grass clippings, home made compost, horse bedding (straw etc). Leave this in place over the winter so it can rot down gradually. Any that has not rotted will be dug in properly in the spring.

6) Empty out your containers or planter bags, and use the old compost as a mulch on your garden, or add it into your compost bins in stages, revitalising it with household waste in between layers ready for use next year.

7) Thoroughly wash out your containers to avoid diseases having a place to lurk over the winter season. Store them in a shed or outhouse to avoid weather damage.

8) Cut any unripe trusses from your tomatoes and bring them into the house and place them on a window ledge in order to ripen them up. Some won't ripen, but you should get a few more by bringing them in, and this in turn allows you to work on clearing your greenhouse.

9) Cut down the remains of your tomato plants (or cucumbers etc). Either add the foliage to the compost bins, or the compost heap (assuming it is disease free, if not burn it).

10) Again use any compost from your tomato grow-bags as a mulch or add it to your compost heap or bins.

11) Clean all the inside glass of your greenhouse with a disinfectant solution.

12) If you use automated window openers then take the gas cartridges indoors for the winter.

My Vegetable Allotment
My Vegetable Allotment
My Own Photos

The Flower Garden

Your flower garden is probably looking reasonably okay, certain shrubs will be in bloom and the foliage of others will be turning to rich red and gold autumn colours. There is still plenty that you can do to prepare the flower garden for the winter though, and this in turn will make your life easier in the spring.

1) Continue to rake falling leaves into heaps, before either composting them in their own heap (because they take a year to break down fully which is slower than other materials), or placing them loosely in black bin sacks, tying the neck of the bags and then using a garden fork to puncture the bag several times. These bags of leaves can be stacked up in a corner of the garden and forgotten about for a year. When the year is up you will have a lovely rich leaf mould in the bags, an excellent mulch for around your shrubs and trees.

2) Take this opportunity to mend any bare patches in your lawn, ideally using patches of turf cut to size.

3) Give the lawn a final mow over before raking vigorously with lawn rake to remove any moss and decaying material.

4) Use a lawn edger or the back of a spade to sharpen up the edges of any flower beds where the lawn has spread into them. Turn around the piece of removed turf so the the inner section now faces outwards. Fill in any holes in the turf with soil and re-seed them.

5) Go across your lawn spiking it with a garden fork to a depth of about 8cm about 15cm apart. This will aerate the soil and improve surface drainage. If you have a heavy clay soil you can go a step further and use a hollow-tine spiker that will core out each hole.

6) If you have a sandy soil you can top dress it with sieved topsoil or a garden centre proprietary product at approximately one bucketful per square metre. Use a garden besom broom or a lawn rake to work it into the turf. You can also add grass seed to the mixture if your lawn is thin or sparse.

7) After a rainy period you can apply an autumn feed all over the lawn. This will help the lawn to toughen up without encouraging soft lush growth that will need further mowing.

8) Give your hedges a final trim before the weather gets too cold. If you leave it too late you risk frost damage.

9) Cut off any suckers developing around the base of trees.

10) Disconnect your hose from the taps and store away to avoid the water inside freezing and damaging it.

11) Hoe away any weeds that are growing in the gravel paths throughout your garden.

12) Protect any tender plants or shrubs by either moving them indoors, or by wrapping them in horticultural fleece.

13) Cover your garden ponds in fine netting to keep out leaves and other debris.

14) Prune appropriate shrubs carefully, making sure you prune to an outward facing bud.

Tools and Equipment

Of course it is also important to look after your tools and equipment. Take the opportunity to carefully wash and dry your garden tools. Sharpen the edges of spades and finally wipe the metal parts of each tool with a light coating of oil to protect them from rust. The same can be done to the blades on your lawnmower or your rotavator.

My Vegetable Growing Website

Grow Vegetables at Home
This site is my own creation and contains lots of useful information on growing vegetables at home, no matter how inexperienced you are.

Updated: 10/17/2015, mistyhorizon2003
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mistyhorizon2003 on 09/01/2012

Glad these were useful to you Sheilamarie, and hope you can put the tips to good use :)

sheilamarie on 08/31/2012

Great tips for putting your garden to bed. Thanks for the reminders.

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