You didn’t really think autumn was time to put your feet up, did you ? The garden may be settling into its winter plumage, but that just gives you the chance to get on with all sorts of essential maintenance jobs. Do them now, well before the weather turns nasty, and the surprises you’ll get next spring will all be pleasant ones.
Gutters, Downpipes and Drains
If your “rainwater goods” aren’t doing their job, leaks can cause damage to your property. So while autumn leaves are falling, keep clearing all your gutters, even on outbuildings, to prevent blockages (you can buy wire covers that fit in the tops of downpipes to keep them clear or you can invest in long lengths of gutter brush to prevent leaves landing in the first place). If you have a downpipe that discharges into an open gully, keep the grating clear of leaves to avoid flooding.
If you save rainwater for watering plants, empty water butts some time over the winter and clean them out thoroughly. Scrub the inside to remove any algae then rinse out with greenhouse disinfectant followed by plain water. By doing this now, there’s plenty of time for natural rainwater to refill them before the next plant-watering season. Cover water butts with lids to keep stored water clean and to prevent debris gathering or algae growing. As an extra precaution, especially for rainwater that you’ll use for watering delicate seedlings in the spring, add a biological additive to the water.When cleaning out a greenhouse water butt, clean the glass roof too, so that any water running off it stays free from dust, seeds, bird droppings etc.
Sheds, Fences and Decking
Check the state of the roofing felt on top of the shed. Use pressure-treated timber battens to fix down loose edges if need be or replace the felt entirely if it’s torn and no longer waterproof, to prevent the roof timbers rotting. Choose a dry weekend to paint all exposed timber, including fencing and decking, with a suitable wood-preservative product.
Store soft furnishings such as cushions in plastic storage boxes or bags in a dry place out of sunlight, ideally indoors, perhaps in the loft. Wipe down, dry and pack away any garden furniture that isn’t meant to be left outside all year round.Lightweight plastic tables and seats often discolour due to long-term exposure to light or become stained by algae if left outside. If there’s nowhere else to store them, stack them and cover them with a tarpaulin or heavy-duty plastic sheet, tied down securely so they can’t blow about.
Hardwood furniture that’s intended to be left outside all year round lasts best and keeps its colour if treated with a suitable product (see the maker’s instructions or look them up online if you’ve lost the original leaflet). Teak oils and similar products take a long time to soak in and leave a residue on the surface that may mark clothes.Use them now so that your furniture’s ready for when you want to start using it again.Cast aluminium tables and chairs with complicated Victorian cast ironwork style patterns lose their top layer of paint in time, and the nooks and crannies trap dirt and algae, so they soon look tatty after a few seasons outside.
Clean them up out-of-doors using a wire brush (an old toothbrush is good for the tricky bits), then wash down well with warm soapy water. When dry, take inside a workshop, lay plenty of old newspaper down, and re-spray with an aerosol paint intended for outdoor use on metalwork. Two coats may be needed to cover them well. Don’t return them outside until they are thoroughly dry.Resin furniture can be left outside all year round, but be aware that seating with a rattan-style texture can trap dirt and algae so, if items are to be left outside, they are probably best kept covered up.Simply wash them down with warm soapy water and a soft brush before the start of the next sitting-out season. Better still, if it’s good looking enough to double up, bring the furniture indoors and use it in the conservatory over the winter.
Don’t throw it all away:
Our grandfathers got rid of prunings and clippings on the bonfire, but these days that’s considered very unfriendly – both to the neighbours and the environment. Fortunately there are several much better ways to dispose of your garden waste.
Heaps of fun
Because it recycles them into free soil-improver, a compost heap or bin is by far the best way to deal with lawn mowings, soft hedge clippings, annual weeds, old bedding plants and the like.You can also add fallen leaves and kitchen waste such as vegetable peelings (although not food waste or meat, which attracts pests and scavengers). Build up your compost in layers, adding a little soil or manure (fresh works best) every six inches or so. When your compost heap or bin is full, cover it with a lid or a piece of old carpet and leave for six months to a year, until the ingredients have rotted down into what looks like fibrous soil.You now have fine garden compost, which you can use to improve soil when preparing new beds, putting in new plants or digging over the veg patch.
The worms that turn
A worm bin is a small container used to house worms, which are regularly fed by spreading thin layers of kitchen scraps, shredded paper and leafy waste (but no meat or woody material) inside.The worms, which are different from common earthworms, digest the waste and convert itinto a rich compost that is ideal for adding to veg beds or large outdoor plant tubs, plus a liquid that makes excellent natural plant feed. Bin there, done thatIf you don’t have enough room for a compost heap, or you produce more garden waste than you can cope with, make use of your local council’s green bin scheme.Most local authorities now offer a dedicated bin for garden and appropriate food waste. You may have to request one and/or pay a small fee, but then all your clippings will be taken away and composted without you having to lift a finger (although someone else gets the benefit of the compost, of course).
Glorious mud… and more !
If you’re doing a big gardening job that will produce a lot of waste all at once, consider a Hippo. Available from garden centres and DIY stores, these giant- sized nylon bags open out into mini-skips. Fill one, make a phone call and a grab lorry will come and take it away. It’s not cheap but it’s very easy.
Re-use, not refuse !
Before you dispose of anything, even in the greenest way possible, think whether you can re-use it.Twigs and dropped prunings, for example, dry out well and can be used for lighting a barbecue or wood burner. Old plastic sacks are ideal for collecting manure from local stables, taking rubbish to the tip or lining hanging baskets after being cut up. All sorts of things – unwanted building materials such as surplus patio slabs, perhaps a shed or greenhouse you are taking down, or unwanted plants you need to dig out – can find eager new owners via the internet, thanks to sites such as freecycle.org.
Material gathered from outside sources