Getting Your Garden Ready for Winter

With the summer months receding into distant memory, now is the time for the astute gardener to turn her thoughts to the harsher winter months and prepare her garden accordingly. Forethought and action now can help your prized plot emerge from the wintry depths in a better condition than would otherwise be the case.
A lawn can make or break the look of a garden, and proper pre-winter care is essential if it is to be at its best during the forthcoming year. In late autumn, give it its final mowing, making sure that the mower is set to its maximum cutting height. Also, keep raking off any leaves and debris that fall onto it from surrounding trees so that they don´t shade the grass, thereby excluding air, encouraging disease and inhibiting growth. Now is also the time to scarify the lawn with a spring-tined rake to remove dead grass, moss and other detritus, all obstacles to a healthy lawn. Then, the lawn should be aerated with a garden fork or a rotary aerator. This alleviates the soil compaction that has occurred during the year. The lawn will probably have sustained some damage after the wear and tear of the summer, so sow seed on any bare patches that have emerged, and make good any other repairs to edges and so on. Finally, a top-dressing should be applied to feed the grass and promote growth.
Flowerbeds and borders
In the flowerbeds, all the annuals, which will be dead or dying but certainly well past their best, should be dug up and put on the compost heap, while perennials should be cut back and, if required, divided to give more plants, which should then be planted in situ, or overwintered in a greenhouse. If you have any shrubs that you want to move, do it now, as it allows them time to get firmly anchored before the growing season. However, be sure to stake them, as they may need extra support while settling in. Soil loses a lot of nutrients during the summer, so dig in compost or fertilizer ahead of the next growing period. Roses should be dead-headed and cut back, so long as they are not winter-flowering, and trees and shrubs should be inspected for damage and disease, which can then be cut out. Any plants that have spent the summer outside in pots should now be returned to the confines of the house or the greenhouse before the first frosts.
If you have a pond, cover it with some netting, which will prevent leaves etc. falling in and polluting the water. A good idea, if you have fish, is to float a small ball on the surface, so should it freeze over, you only have to lift the ball up to provide a ready-made hole for to allow the fish to breathe.
Building maintenance
Inspect walls and any other garden buildings, such as greenhouses and sheds, for wear and tear. Any weaknesses should be attended to before the inclement weather makes them worse and more costly to repair.
Garden furniture
If possible, garden furniture should be stored away somewhere safe and dry. However, if that is not possible, ensure that it is protected with weather-proof covers. And don´t forget that winter winds can be particularly harsh, so be sure that everything is weighted or tied down.
Finally, when all the jobs have been completed, it's time to turn your attention to your tools. They work hard and deserve to be treated with care, so clean and oil them well, and let them enjoy a well-deserved winter's rest in a nice, dry shed or garage.
Much of gardening in winter is the tidy up and then the prepartaion for a closed season. However there are of course things you can do for future growth, for example the drying out and storage of seeds or, as may people try, the winter treatment of seeds. Putting them into flats and then putting them outside over winter to see them germinate in spring. If you need ideas, get online and get inspired!
Graeme is writing on behalf of vegetable seeds supplier Kings Seeds

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