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Tidy up before winter hits

All Areas > Homes & Gardens > In the Garden

Author: Julia Smith, Posted: Thursday, 24th October 2019, 09:00

The autumn garden has looked really good this year, especially in all the lovely sunshine we have had (in between showers!). The borders were beautiful in October and the Michaelmas daisies and Sedums looked particularly fine with tones of purple and pink and flowered on and on.

Traditionally, the first week of November is the time to make winter sowings of peas and broad beans. These should be ready to pick from May, which is earlier than the spring-sown crops. Sow broad beans in double staggered rows at 25cm intervals in rows 60-90cm apart. Peas are sown in a double row at 5cm intervals in rows 10-15cm apart.

Clear out nesting boxes

If you have any nesting boxes in your garden they should be emptied now and cleaned with boiling water. Once they are dry, if you put a handful of something like woodshavings inside they can be used by small mammals or birds overwintering.

Prune blackcurrants now, removing two or three of the oldest branches down to the base. You can take cuttings really easily from blackcurrant bushes by snipping some healthy 25cm long shoots, which have formed this year (make a slanted cut at the bottom so you know which way up they go!), and simply sticking them in the ground – it really is that easy!

If shrubs such as Cotinus (smoke bush) have become too large they can be cut back now by a third, providing the weather is still mild, and this will produce a more compact shrub next year. Cotinus grown for their foliage only can be cut down to the ground in early spring, thus producing large spectacular leaves.

To tidy your borders or not to tidy them?

There are two schools of thought on tidying borders for winter: you can leave the dying foliage and stems of perennials over winter to help insects survive (and slugs that like to hide under the rotting foliage!). Alternatively, you only leave the architecturally pleasing seedheads and get rid of the rest.

What I suggest is that if you get round to it, do tidy up and then sit back and feel smug, but if you don’t get round to it, tell yourself that you are trying to be ecologically sound and still sit back and feel smug!

If you do get round to clearing up, now is a good time to add a layer of homemade compost (or bought sacks of soil-improver) and let it lie on the top, and the worms will incorporate it over the winter.

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