October 15: Move or wrap plants as temperatures drop; rake leaves; don’t let compost get too wet; wash decking
The weather has certainly turned colder this week and I suspect the first frost of the autumn will be with us very soon. Don't get caught out: bring your tender plants inside before the frosts get them. Of course if you live on the coast this will offer some protection from frost but the cold sea winds will soon burn and scorch the leaves. A suitable alternative is to wrap up the plant against the cold. Depending on the species, this could be left until the first frost has cut it back. Then remove damaged leaves and pack round the top with dry straw and wrap in plastic or bubble wrap. It is essential to keep the winter wet out and prevent further frost damage. In a reasonably mild winter this is quite successful but in another winter like last year this will have little benefit. Containers are prone to water-logging over winter, so check that they are raised off the ground on pot feet or bricks.
•The leaves are falling fast now and they need to be raked up from the lawn to prevent bare patches developing and to help limit worm activity. These leaves can be added to the compost heap or a leaf pile, where they will rot down to make very valuable organic matter to use to help improve your soil. One of the easiest ways of collecting leaves is to rake them all on to the lawn areas of the garden and then mow them up with a rotary mower.
•Autumn is the time when there is lots of material going onto the compost heap cutting down crops that have finished, and removing summer bedding; all great material for the compost heap. However, you will need to cover your compost heap to ensure it does not get excessively wet. You can use a proper lid that comes with composters or use a plastic sheet with some old carpet. You can continue to add soft prunings, grass clippings, and vegetable peelings whenever they are available. Try not to add more than a 10cm layer every two weeks during winter.
•I really am not a big fan of decking but it has become a feature of many gardens and can become very slippery, particularly with dirt, algae, and moss. This is a good time to get out a pressure washer with some cleaning agent and wash down these surfaces before winter sets in. Should you not want to use a pressure washer (as this may lift the mortar in between the slabs) you can do a fair job with a stiff broom and water, plus a cleaning product applied to the surface.
•If you have not given your lawn an autumn feed yet time is running out for it to do any good. Choose a day when rain is forecast, to help wash it in, this worth spending the time now to ensure a healthy lawn next spring. Also sweep off worm casts from the lawn now to help prevent bare patches of soil for weeds to become established.
•I like to grow cyclamen as houseplants for their brilliant winter flowers. They are very prone to fungal diseases so they must not be over watered. Always water plants from the base to avoid the corm rotting and ventilate the plants well on dry days. Remove any yellowing leaves as they appear and pinch out flower buds around the base of the corm to help the plant retain its energy for flowering around Christmas.