(A version of this post first appeared on the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers’ website in September 2018.)
In the garden, we love to enjoy the beauty of the moment. The first snowdrop, a drift of daffodils, your very own vegetables, bright pots at the door or on the balcony, leaves changing colour in autumn. Gardeners, of course, are always looking down the road as well, planning for what comes next.
Tidy up now so your garden or balcony stays lovely all the way through till spring
It’s time now for a little autumn cleaning, tidying, reorganising and planting to make a difference in your garden straightaway and over the next few months. A neat and well-tended garden will lift the spirits as the weather turns nasty, play its part in sparkling winter festivities, and help to welcome spring. (Yes, spring is on schedule for 2019, however far away it feels at present!)
Autumn weather can be lovely, so get out and enjoy it when you can!
Clean up and tidy up
Get a bucket of hot soapy water ready – with a dash of bleach if there’s algae or moss involved. Autumn cleaning and tidying prevents pests and diseases getting hold and will make a difference when spring and summer roll round again.
Clean, dry and put away the garden furniture and the BBQ. And the garden toys too, unless they are an essential part of outdoors. Scrub the decking to get rid of slippery patches.
Clean empty pots, hanging baskets, canes and plant supports and store them out of reach of wind or frost. Empty the hoses and drip-feed systems and put them away so they don’t freeze and split in the cold winter temperatures.
If you’ve got them, give the greenhouse and cold frame a good going-over. Move the plants temporarily to a sheltered area, protected with fleece, and then brush out all that debris where pests and diseases love to hide. Let in as much daylight as possible by cleaning the glass, including between the panes – use something flexible like a plant label. Remember to put the plants back!
Clean out and disinfect bird boxes.
Head for the compost heap, garden waste bin or leaf mould container with:
- all the faded and finished contents of summer pots and hanging baskets
- old crops from the vegetable garden
- fallen leaves from your lawn, path or road.
Trim the hedges and help overwintering wildlife
September is the month to give a last trim to your hawthorn, privet, lonicera, laurel, box, escallonia, holly and yew hedges. New tightly packed, healthy shoots will thicken the hedges up a little before winter and they’ll look neat and tidy for a long time. It’s probably a bit too late to trim beech and hornbeam and don’t trim conifer hedges (apart from yew) now as it encourages bald patches.
Make a place for wildlife to overwinter by creating a ‘dead hedge’ with woody hedge trimmings, tucked away behind the shed or the compost.
Declutter and reorganise the garden shed
The garden shed can become overwhelmed with things, stuffed in hastily as life rolls on through the summer. Decluttering and reorganising it will make sure you’ve got an ordered working environment for busy times ahead.
Plastic flower pots just love to fall over and roll out of reach. Ask yourself how many of these troublesome pots you actually need, and get rid of the rest. Many garden centres will recycle them. In my small shed, I’m currently trialling storing the ones I do need in horizontal stacks within box frames.
Prepare for autumn rains and gales
We all know this weather is coming so be prepared! A few quick checks and a bit of work now is certainly a lot easier than clearing up later.
Check gutters, downpipes and their hoppers for any obstructions like clumps of grass, young buddleia, leaves or moss. Make sure they haven’t come loose and that their joints are sound.
Scrub out the water butt, rinse and then let it refill. A lightproof cover will suppress any green algae. Clear debris out of your pond too, and put a net over it to stop leaves getting in.
You don’t want your plants to get waterlogged or frozen so remove and store any pot saucers, and put the pots up on ‘feet’ or stones.
Autumn wind can ‘burn’ plants, rock them about badly and even make them keel over. To prevent this, cut back shrub roses and other tall summer-flowering shrubs and herbaceous plants. Make sure young trees and shrubs are tied carefully and firmly to stakes that are also firm in the ground.
Plant and move
The soil is still warm and moist in early autumn and plants love this. It’s a great time to divide large clumps of perennials to make more plants and this is the best time to put in bare-root plants, if you’ve been thinking about fruit trees and bushes.
My pots of pelargoniums are still flowering madly but I’ll soon be planting up some autumn/winter pots. I love Sarcococca confusa, the Christmas box, with its dark-green leaves and tiny, highly scented cream flowers. I’ll also use heather and skimmia. And bright cyclamen.
Now is also the time to plant bright and cheerful spring-flowering bulbs, such as crocus and daffodils. Put them in the lawn or in pots.
Wait until late November to plant tulips. I’m a convert to this wonderful bulb and I’m delighted with the show that a few pots of them can make in the spring.
Take time to wonder and admire
There’s plenty to do but do take the time to admire your garden and your hard work. Work steadily, as and when you can, and the garden will continue to bring you delight as the seasons turn.