After sowing your seeds and gathering in your harvest make some time to take a look around at your garden. The weather may be cooling and the evenings getting shorter but there is no reason to hibernate – at least not just yet!
Take a look at your brassica plants that are going to be growing over the winter. You can nip off any yellowing leaves, they are no help to the plant and could encourage slugs or botrytis (this is a fungus that appears as a grey-brown mould at any time of the year). If you think any of the debris is suspect then burn it if you can, don’t put it on the compost heap.
As you take up crops the bare ground can be forked over roughly and then you can spread out you lovely home-made compost. Leave the worms and frosts to do their work and then spring digging will be easier. Depending on your soil type ‘easier’ is a fairly undefined term! My back tells me a bit of forking now makes a big difference – weeding before forking is also a very good idea.
For those with ‘no-dig’ beds topping them up now gives the weather a chance to work on them. Then there is ‘double digging’: I don’t do this but my garden has been in cultivation for years. If your plot is new then this back breaking job will make a difference in the future. Dig out a trench 2 spades deep and put the soil to one side. Put lots of compost and wet leaves in the bottom of the trench 10-30cm deep! Now dig to the same depth all along one side piling this soil on top of the compost/leaf mix. Now you have a new trench to put compost and leaves in – keep going until you have worked your way across your plot, the last trench is filled with the soil you dug out of the first one. All this work will make you go and research ‘no-dig’ gardening. On the other hand it will keep you warm and exercised.
If you are the lucky owner of a greenhouse take a look at it – has it become a garden shed with piles of pots and tools? If so get in there and tidy it up before the spring rush strikes. Look at your tomato plants – very little ones will not ripen but anything of a useable size can be picked. Some will ripen on the kitchen window sill and any that are completely green can be turned into chutney (or given to a chutney making friend). Chillies and peppers will finish with the first frosts so hang onto them for a bit longer. It is well worth washing your greenhouse (and coldframe) be it glass or plastic. You will be amazed at what a difference it makes to the amount of light getting in and next year’s plants will thank you. Scrubbing around the frame will also dislodge any unwelcome pests who thought they had found a good place to snuggle down for the winter.
We have lots of hedges in our garden and tidying them up starts now as there are no bird nests. Some perennials will turn into a soggy heap in the winter so those get trimmed back. Anything with nice seed heads gets left. All that is needed now is a dry day to cut the grass.