As the cooler months approach, it’s a good idea to start thinking about taking some simple steps to prepare your garden for the winter months ahead.
It’s tempting to close the patio doors and ignore the garden when it’s not in use. However, there are clear benefits to taking a little time to prepare your outside space before the temperatures plummet.
By doing so, you’ll save yourself some extra work when springtime arrives, and your garden will be in tip-top condition to start the next garden-ing season!
To help you prepare your garden for winter, we’ve put together our top tips:
1. Tidy Paths and Paving
Once the leaves have fallen, sweep them up along with any other garden debris on your paths and paved areas. It’s also worth giving your paths a good scrub, either with a jetwash or a stiff brush and soapy water.
Doing this before the frosty months arrive will ensure your paths are safer to walk on, and dust is much easier to sweep away when the weather is warm and dry than when it’s damp.
2. Insulate outdoor taps
As we prepare for winter, it’s time to disconnect, drain and put away your hosepipe until next year. Doing this will prevent them from freezing in the height of winter and avoid stagnant water building up in your hose.
One thing that is often overlooked is the maintenance of outside taps and pipework. Freezing temperatures can cause them to crack and burst.
To prevent this, we recommend isolating and shutting off your outdoor tap and fitting an insulated tap cover. These are relatively inexpensive and could save you a fortune compared to the cost of repairing cracked taps and pipework!
3. Clean and sharpen your tools
If you are a keen gardener, your tools are likely to be put to good use over the summer months. So before you pop them in the shed for winter, consider giving them a good clean and sharpening.
To clean them, grab a stiff brush and soapy water to clean off this year’s dirt and grime. Once everything is clean, you can give any exposed metal a little wipe with some vegetable oil and this will help prevent rust from forming. By cleaning your tools, not only will they look great, you’ll extend their life as well!
When it comes to your garden cutting tools such as shears, clippers and pruners, it’s advisable to give them an end of season sharpen so they are ready to take on the demanding tasks that the spring ahead will bring.
By using a file or sharpening stone, this task can be completed quickly and easily. As with your other gardening tools applying a thin coat of vegetable oil after cleaning will keep them well protected from rust through the winter.
4. Prepare your soil for spring
If you are not planting any winter shrubbery, then the best time to prepare your soil for the following spring is at the start of autumn. You can do this by:
- Pulling up any weeds and plant debris, including roots and any fallen leaves. This prevents insects from making themselves at home and any diseases which could scupper your springtime planting.
- Gently rake the ground to remove any extra leaves.
- Spread compost over the bed, a 2-4 inch layer is recommended. Compost improves soils ability to retain moisture and can improve the texture of existing sandy or clay soil.
Consider covering the bests with a layer of plastic mulch or a few inches of straw. This will prevent weeds from growing and taking over any dormant flowerbed.
5. Repair Garden Structures
While you're cutting back shrubbery and generally tidying up, there is an excellent opportunity to undertake any minor repair work that may be required. This could include fencing, greenhouses or summerhouses.
Look out for pest infestations, rotting timber to replace or repair as need-ed. Remember, it will be easier to take action now than to let the problem grow over winter.
If you own a wooden shed give it a coat of wood treatment to protect it against the harsh weather to come. As well as treating the wood check for any gaps and cracks in the wood, and ensure the roof is watertight.
6. Cover Drains and Clear Out Gutters
In autumn, a fair amount of leaves, twigs, and other tree debris will likely end up in your guttering system. If left uncleared, this debris can block the gutters and cause some severe damage to your home.
Taking the time to clear them out will keep them operating effectively when you most need them and help keep pests and vermin away. In addition, covering your outdoor drains can help prevent a build-up of debris which is expected over the winter months.
7. Prepare the Lawn
My Lovely Lawn is obviously advocates of artificial lawns, but for the sake of being non-promotional, we will cover both artificial lawns and natural grass lawns.
Natural Grass Lawns
• Clear away any debris and leaves before giving your lawn one last cut in autumn. Make sure you set the blades high so you can trim your grass short. If the grass is too long, the light will be blocked from the base. This is what causes the grass to turn yellow.
• Spike the ground with a garden fork to increase drainage. You may even want to pop some sand in the holes to stop them from closing up again. This will help them see out the winter.
• Use an autumn lawn feed to help strengthen roots and keep moss away.
• Patch any bare areas. If a summer of garden activities has left you with bare patches, the run-up to winter is the best time to treat them. Buy a kit designed to do the job, or you can buy some grass seeds and topsoil, which will work equally as well.
• Try to keep pets and children off the lawn while it grows back over winter to prevent damage.
Artificial grass is more robust than natural lawns and can withstand all types of weather conditions. Therefore, you don’t need to mow it or take extensive steps to keep it protected through the winter as you do with re-al grass.
You can also still use the grass area throughout winter without the fear of muddy patches appearing. In addition, the drainage system will avoid your lovely lawn from gathering great puddles of water.
Here are a couple of tips for maintaining an artificial lawn through winter:
• In particularly bad weather, you might consider covering the area with a tarp. This offers double protection for the grass fibres, and you can still walk on the grass area, which is covered if you choose to do this.
• If it snows, remove snow with a plastic shovel. This will make the area usable and protect the fibres. Also, snow and ice will melt naturally if left on the artificial lawn.
8. Tidy Ponds and Water Features
Before the temperatures plummet, we would recommend that you take the opportunity to drain and clean any water features. Stone water features are porous, and if water freezes, it can causes cracks.
Once empty, clean out all the leaves, debris and other gunk that may have gathered in the base. If a white crust is present, you can clean it off with white wine vinegar.
Once clean, it’s worth covering with a water feature cover or polythene sheet for further protection against the elements.
If you have a pond, scoop out fallen leaves with a net and consider using a sludge treatment to remove any buildup in the pond’s bottom. Covering your pond with netting will help both protect any fish and stop any further debris from falling into the water.
9. Protect Plants
If you have a selection of pot plants that are sensitive to cold weather, now is the time to move them into your conservatory or greenhouse.
In the case of palm trees or other delicate species of tree, wrap them in a horticultural fleece around the trunk and spread a thick layer of bark around the base to protect them from damage during the frost.
10. Watch Out for Snow!
As beautiful as the white stuff is, prolonged periods of heavy snowfall can be devastating news for trees and plants. Stay alert when the snow falls on your garden.
Simply by removing snow that is resting on the leaves, you will protect them from more severe damage. However, don’t panic at the first sign of snowfall - one day of snow is unlikely to do any serious harm to your garden!
During the winter months, gardens need very little maintenance, so autumn is the ideal time to get on top of all the winter preparation jobs.
Good preparation is key to getting your garden looking its best when spring comes around again. Alternatively, installing an artificial lawn ensures your garden looks the business all year-round with very little maintenance duties required.