Ask a farmer and he’ll tell you that the growing season starts in winter. Winter maintenance really does make a difference so here’s all you need to know about putting your garden to bed for winter.
Winter lawn care
Naturally, as turf growers, the lawn is our first concern. Grass does keep growing through the winter months. It’s gathering strength for springtime. Help it along by
- Apply autumn/winter feed every 6-8 weeks during the season.
- Keep the lawn free from fallen leaves, toys and debris
- Avoid walking on the grass when it’s frozen
- Cut back trees and shrubs that might cast shade on the grass next summer
- Trim and tidy lawn edges
- Stock up on lawn disease control solution so you can treat fusarium or rethread the moment you see the first signs of infestation
Paths and Patios
Moss, mud and algae can make hard surfaces slippery in winter. Now is the time to give them a good sweep with a stiff brush. A quick once over with the hose will leave them looking clean and neat – ready for spring (or for winter barbeques)
Living Green Roofs
If you are lucky enough to have a living green roof, there are three quick but essential maintenance tasks you need to do now.
- Remove fallen leaves and other debris that deprive the plants of daylight
- If you spot any tree seedlings – pluck them out while they’re still small and easy to handle. (And before their roots reach your waterproofing!)
- Clean gutters and clear drainage outlets so that plant roots don’t sit in water all winter.
Borders and planters
Tender plants will need to be protected from frost. So if you have pelargoniums (sometimes called geraniums), tender fuschias, dahlias or impatiens, bring them into the greenhouse.
Most summer bedding plants are annuals. That means that they won’t grow back next year. It’s OK to pull them up and pop them on the compost heap. If you want to replace them with something colourful, there are lots of cyclamens, violas and primulas in the garden centres at the moment.
Try not to be too tidy – especially in wildflower areas. Leaving dried stems to overwinter supplies hibernation homes for beneficial insects such as ladybirds. It’s tempting to cut everything back but if you can hold back until early spring you’ll have free help with pollination and pest control.
Shrubs, trees and herbaceous borders
Protect roots from frost and improve the soil with a nice thick layer of mulch.
Mulch will stay in place for many months and has lots of benefits other than frost protection
- Helps preserve soil moisture in summer – crucial if we have another hot summer like the one in 2018
- Looks neat
- Suppresses weed growth – meaning you can concentrate on enjoying your garden next summer instead of weeding
- Breaks down gradually to add nutrients to the soil
- Improves soil structure
- Supports earthworms, beetles and soil microbes that are such a vital part of the ecosystem in your garden. PLUS they are a much-needed food source for hedgehogs – a species that is in rapid decline at the moment
These enigmatic creatures are in decline because our countryside and gardens are not providing everything they need. You can redress the balance by mulching, leaving gaps in fences and building hedgehog hibernation homes for winter
Where to buy bark mulch
Bark mulch is available from most garden centres in small bags. However, a small quantity doesn’t go very far AND you need to dispose of the plastic bag.
Speaking as a gardener, I much prefer to order my mulch in large quantities. I don’t need a lorry load at a time so bulk is a bit too much. However, I do find that having bark delivered in builders’ bags is just right. It’s not messy, there are no plastic bags to worry about and once it’s empty, the big bag is really handy for storing firewood.
Start planning your garden for next year
What went well in your garden this year and what disappointed you? Once you have finished putting your garden to bed for winter, you can start making plans for next year.
Was your lawn a disappointment? Perhaps you could peruse some of our lawn care articles to work out why. It could be that your lawn feeding regime needs a tweak, or maybe the soil is so compacted that it would be easiest to replace the lawn.
Would you have liked to have seen more butterflies and bees in your garden? A wildflower border would certainly help you with that, as would a living green roof.