As the season draws to a close, it’s time to clear patio debris, replace tired plants and restore order to your outdoor space. By Hannah Stephenson.
Back from your summer travels? Are your hanging baskets looking a little sorry, your pots pathetic and your borders brimming with weeds? Here are some easy but effective garden tidy-up tips…
- Save it
Save what you can, deadheading late-flowering blooms in borders which may come back to life. Perennials which have finished flowering can be cut back but will come back to life next year. Established trees and shrubs won’t generally have been damaged in your absence.
- Ditch it.
If your hanging baskets and pots of annuals have completely dried out, take them down and empty the contents onto the compost heap. Keep your spirits high by buying spring-flowering bulbs and, if you want late colour, pop into the garden centre to find some.
Good plants which will bring colour at this time of year include asters, chrysanthemums and nerines, along with rudbeckias and sedums. Plant some in the pots that are now free from wilted summer annuals.
- Tend to the lawn.
With the hot summer we’ve had, the lawn might be looking like hay and shouldn’t need cutting. If it has grown substantially though, leave the blades on the highest setting for the first cut, reduce the height at the next a few days later, and then cut at the normal height. You’ll be surprised how much tidier the garden looks when the lawn has been mown. Take time to tidy up the lawn edges using edging shears.
- Lose the weeds.
Look over your beds and borders and if weeds have sprung up, then get rid of them quickly. Seeds shed at this time of year, which means more work later on. Keep on top of deadheading, otherwise the flowering will not continue as long as you’d like.
- Harvest now.
If you have a vegetable patch, harvest as much ripe produce as you can now, to stop the veg running to seed or becoming over-ripe. You can blanch (immerse in boiling water) and freeze many veg, including green beans and sweetcorn, so you don’t end up wasting what you pick.
Immerse the vegetables immediately into a bowl of iced water after blanching, to stop them continuing to cook. When cool, lift the veg from the iced water, spread out on a kitchen towel and pat dry to remove excess moisture. Pack loose vegetables in resealable plastic bags or other containers. Vegetables suitable for freezing include beans, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, peas, spinach, Swiss chard and summer squash. Even tomatoes can be frozen whole and then used in sauces and soups later on.
- Clear space for new crops.
Find time to clear vacant rows in the veg patch and refill them with autumn and winter crops as soon as you can.
- Put away pots for winter.
If you have empty pots you’re not going to use again this year, clean them with diluted disinfectant and stow in the shed for winter. That way, terracotta won’t crack and other vulnerable pots won’t perish when the frost comes. Also, remove and put away stakes which propped up plants which have now been cut back.
- Plan for next year.
Take time to write a list of what you are going to include and exclude in your plantings next year. Look for gaps you’ll need to fill in borders next season, and maybe extend the season by planning to plant some perennials which provide late-summer colour.