Lost your gardening mojo as the weather turns cooler? Experts offer advice on how to keep the momentum going.
If you picked up a trowel for the first time in spring and have enjoyed flowers and rich harvests from your efforts during lockdown, don’t give up now.
Temperatures may be falling but you can still be planting and tidying up to keep your garden looking great and attracting wildlife, says gardening expert Pippa Greenwood, a regular on BBC Gardeners’ Question Time.
But how do we stay inspired and continue to enjoy the benefits gardening can bring?
You could start by backing the Horticultural Trades Association’s (hta.org.uk) #KeepBritainGrowing campaign, supported by garden centre chain Dobbies (dobbies.com), which aims to highlight gardening as a hobby that doesn’t just need to be reserved for the warmer months.
Greenwood, HTA’s horticulture manager, explains: “If you’re new to something or haven’t got much experience, it can be a struggle to progress past that first burst of enthusiasm.
“That is where the HTA’s #KeepBritainGrowing campaign steps in. It aims to inspire and encourage new gardeners and provide them with a reliable, user-friendly information resource.”
Linking in with Defra’s #HealthyPlantsHealthyMinds and the HTA’s Million Planting Moments campaign (September 19-27) – encouraging gardeners to plant at the traditional ‘natural’ planting time of year – there’s plenty of advice on hand to keep momentum going.
Marcus Eyles, horticultural director at Dobbies Garden Centres, offers the following tips to keep you inspired in autumn and beyond…
Have a big garden tidy-up
“Autumn is the perfect time to tidy up your garden, prepare it for the colder weather and get your lawn, plants and soil off to a head start for spring,” says Eyles.
He suggests getting your lawn ready for winter by raking away dead grass and leaves, then loosening the soil and applying an autumn lawn care product. Collect fallen leaves and keep them in black sacks to turn into leaf mould over the winter, he advises, and boost your soil by spreading well-rotted manure over its surface for improved structure and nutritional content by spring. If leaves have fallen into ponds, clear them to keep the water clear of debris.
Cut back perennials
If you haven’t yet done so, cut back perennials and border flowers that are past their best, pruning them back to the base or to any new shoots emerging, and blitz weeds before winter sets in, he suggests.
Watch out for wildlife
“Our gardens provide important habitats for a number of garden wildlife, from birds to hedgehogs, to smaller insects like ladybirds and earthworms – which are a valuable fertiliser for soil and help increase the amount of air and water that gets into it,” says Eyles. “Providing food and shelter is one of the easiest ways you can do your bit. For birds, put out a variety of food like shelled peanuts, slices of grapes and good mixed seed and make sure they have a source of fresh, unfrozen water.”
“A small bird feeder is ideal for any size garden. Put up bird boxes or clean out existing ones ready for the new nesting season,” he continues. “Many birds start looking for a nest site in late winter, so tackle this job early. Hedgehogs will hibernate for most of the winter, so give them the habitat they need with a homemade house, or by creating a pile of leaves and logs.”
With some careful planning your garden can be filled with colourful foliage all year round, from beautiful berries to vibrant stems.
“Fill borders with dogwood and birch, or for a quick colour fix, brighten up your front door with a hanging basket or patio pot. Acers, cyclamen, pansies and ornamental grasses are all perfect for a fiery foliage display,” says Eyles. “Many plants and trees begin to produce berries and hips in the autumn, including cotoneasters, roses, rowan and crab apples.”
Plant bulbs now that will give your garden a burst of colour in spring, including crocuses, daffodils, hyacinth and iris.
Limited outside space? Grow herbs indoors…
Perfect for garnishes or botanical cocktails, herbs are easy to grow inside. They simply need sunlight, regular watering and protection from the cold.
Mix different colours, textures and flavours for a lovely windowsill display and plant in odd numbers, like threes or fives, to get a more natural look. Pick your herbs regularly and they will keep growing, says Eyles.
… and houseplants
“During the autumn and winter months, houseplants will be kept looking their best if you give them a shower as you water, as this will keep the leaves looking green and glossy. Keep an eye on light levels in the darker winter months – some plants may need a bit more,” Eyles advises.
All houseplants require a little clean, simply wipe the leaves with a damp cloth. This is not just to keep them looking good – removing the dust aids good health. Take off any foliage that is yellowing, and trim damaged leaves of larger plants with sharp scissors at the same time.