October 31, 2018
There’s no rest for the wicked – or gardeners! Even the best-designed garden needs essential, year-round maintenance to keep it looking its best. Here’s what you need to be doing in your garden in Kent, Sussex or Surrey this autumn to make sure you enjoy it to its full potential next spring and summer.
One of the most obvious autumn garden maintenance jobs is planting bulbs for early colour in the spring. Hyacinths, daffodils, narcissi and crocuses should have gone in in October, but you can still plant lilies and tulips into November.
You may need to give it one last cut before you clean off your lawn mower and store it for the winter; don’t cut your grass too short – an inch (or 25mm) is ideal.
Your lawn will love you if you spike and scarify it now to stop it getting waterlogged during the winter and to enable the roots to breathe. An autumn lawn feed will also ensure it looks its best come the spring.
If you’re laying a new lawn, or filling in bare patches, now is the ideal time to do so, when there is less footfall to damage tender stems; ideally you want to lay turf when the soil is not too wet or frosty.
There are possibly a few more weeks in which you will need to continue to sweep up fallen leaves; you may opt for a seasonal bonfire, but if you stack them you will have valuable leaf mould next spring to help feed essential nutrients back into the ground. Oak and beech leaves will break down with little assistance, but thick leaves such as sycamore, walnut and horse chestnut, will need to be shredded before adding to your leaf mould pile. Collect pine needles separately to create an acidic leaf mould, ideal for ericaceous plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas, camelias, Pieris and blueberries; pine needles will take two to three years to break down.
Most borders are in need of general tidying at this time of year; if you haven’t done so already, clear out any faded summer bedding plants and cut down faded perennials.
If you have a garden pond, now is the time for a general clean up; the fish will be at their prime after the summer, while the cooler temperatures will reduce their stress levels. Prune and remove any dying marginal plants to stop them decomposing in the water; protect living marginal and pond-side plants with bracken or straw to protect them from the extremes of winter. Prevent autumn leaves from entering your pond by installing netting; clear out any that do get into the water as they will reduce its quality.
After deadheading roses and pruning rambling varieties, the autumn is also the time to plant bare-root roses; make sure you have time to plant them as soon as you get them as they won’t thank you if you keep them hanging around.
Apple trees and pear trees should be pruned when the tree is dormant, between leaf fall in early November and bud burst in early March, to ensure a good cycle of fruiting wood. The Royal Horticultural Society has clear tips on how to do this. (Do not prune plum trees or cherry trees now, as they can be susceptible to silver leaf disease if pruned in colder weather and should therefore only be pruned from early spring to mid-summer).
It’s also the perfect time to plant new fruit trees and bushes. Make sure you prepare the ground properly to get them off to a good start. You may like to consider local varieties that thrive well within Kent and Sussex.
Sussex Apple Trees sell a variety of Sussex apple varieties, with rootstocks available from December, including:
Any significant arboriculture work should ideally be carried out when the birds aren’t nesting, so the autumn is a great time for calling your local tree surgeon to deal with any diseased, unsightly or out-of-place trees, as well as those that need some TLC to restore them to their former glory.
PLANTING FOR NEXT YEAR
The autumn is the time to plant for next year, to give the roots time to establish themselves over the winter when water is more plentiful. Conifers, evergreens and hedges like to go in now, as do herbaceous perennials, as long as the soil is light (they may struggle over the winter is your soil is too waterlogged). It’s also a good time to move evergreens and conifers.
LOOKING AFTER THE VULNERABLE
Before the thermometer mercury dips too low, protect tender plants with bracken or straw. As the ground gets harder, it’s also time to think of our feathered friends and put out food and water for the birds. The RSPB has advice on what to leave for them, how often to feed them and how to keep your bird feeding station pest free.
If you want to redesign your garden next year, the autumn is also the perfect time to get the ball rolling, or even to get the project started and finished. If you were planning on commissioning a garden redesign in the spring, you might like to read our article on why autumn and winter are the perfect time for garden design work.
A garden is for life – not just the summer! That means year-round maintenance to keep it looking its best, but any effort you put in now will be rewarded in the spring and summer. But if your knees are creaking or your back is hurting just from thinking about what you need to do, remember that we offer maintenance, as well as garden design services. So, if you want to enjoy your garden in its full glory without having to put in the blood, sweat and tears required yourself, we can help!
To discuss your garden design or maintenance needs call 01892 577371 or send us an email using our online form.
Based in Crowborough, Sussex, Dewlands offers garden design and maintenance services across:
You can read a more comprehensive list of the area we cover here.