Get your garden ready for winter as nights draw in
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Darker nights and shorter days are drawing in but there is still some time left to make sure your gardens and allotments are as water efficient as possible and help the environment as Anglian Water's David Hartley explains.
Is your garden ready for winter? From October until the end of November the days are shorter, chillier and we might be spending a bit more time indoors than we would like – but did you know it's a great time to get your garden ready for next spring?
Water is essential during the hotter months for producing beautiful gardens and tasty allotment produce. But there are some things we can all do now to make sure our gardens and vegetable patches are as water-efficient as possible during the summer.
Being water-efficient in the garden is great because it means less watering and more time spent enjoying your garden, but it's also good for the environment and the region's water supplies – and, if you're on a meter, it will mean cheaper bills too.
A good way to keep the moisture in the soil and improve the quality of it over the winter is by adding organic fertiliser and topping off with mulch, such as bark or gravel. This helps to lock in moisture and nutrients, and improves drainage.
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It is also the perfect time to remove any weeds that will compete with your vegetables and flowers for any available water.
Along with the usual tasks, such as cutting back plants to encourage growth for spring, these autumn days are a great time to tackle cultivation tasks like making new beds and borders, deep digging to help root development or relocating plants. That way, the soil is much less likely to dry out in the process.
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It is also a great time to install one or two well-placed water butts ahead of the wetter winter months. These will store rainwater over the winter which you can then use in spring and summer to help significantly reduce the need to use tap water in your garden.
Make your garden wildlife-friendly to help protect small animals during the winter frosts. Create a messy log pile in a shady corner of the garden to attract hedgehogs and frogs.
For more ideas visit www.wildlifetrusts.org, and remember to feed birds too. To maximise the number of birds you feed leave food in different locations in your garden, for example, on the ground and in trees.
Loads of green-fingered advice and free water saving packs are also available from Anglian Water's 'Potting Shed' (www.anglianwater.co.uk/thepottingshed) – a partnership between Anglian Water and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) which was launched during the drought which hit this region back in 2012. Customers can order their free water-saving garden kit from the website and have it delivered to their home.
Top tip: Make small holes in a bag and fill up with wet leaves to create a leaf mould. Apply this to base areas where you're planting bulbs to enhance the soil.
Beat the pests and help keep water clean and healthy this winter
Pest management is essential to agriculture and producing healthy crops – and that's why Anglian Water has launched its Slug It Out initiative.
Unfortunately, many slug pellets contain a chemical called metaldehyde, which is soluble in water and can find its way into nearby watercourses, potentially causing problems.
The chemical is very effective at managing slug visitors to your vegetable patch, but it's also very difficult to remove from the water treatment process.
So teams of AW catchment advisers work closely with farmers to help reduce the amount of metaldehyde in rivers and reservoirs. They advise on alternative pest treatments which are metaldehyde-free, as well as advice on how to protect the catchment as a whole.
This approach is a proactive and responsible way of improving the water quality in our rivers and reservoirs, while protecting our customers, the farming community and our environment.
But gardeners and vegetable growers can also play their part in helping us to protect water:
* Consider using organic alternatives, they can be just as effective and have no impact on the environment. Visit gardenorganic.co.uk to find out more.
* Where possible, use slug pellets with the alternative active ingredient ferric phosphate instead of ones containing metaldehyde. Ferric phosphate is not soluble in rainwater and will therefore stay out of rivers and streams.
* Always store your pesticides carefully – they must be kept in a clean, dry place and sealed tightly.
* Never pour unwanted chemicals down a drain. Your local council will be able to give you advice on where to dispose of chemicals – put your postcode into this website to find local information – www.gov.uk/hazardous-waste-disposal
For more garden and home inspiration, see our Beautiful Homes & Gardens supplement