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Preparing the trade plant nursery garden for autumn and winter

Now the clocks have gone back it’s easy to think that you can put away your tools and forget about the garden until spring. No-one would blame you, as it’s difficult to stay motivated when the temperatures are dropping and the nights are closing in. However, autumn can be a really productive time for gardeners. It’s not just a question of tidying up and clearing away: it’s also a time for planting, replenishing and preparing for next spring.  A little hard work now and you’ll reap the benefits next year. Here are Ladybrook’s trade plant nursery tips for preparing your garden for autumn and winter.

Tidy and replenish borders

Dig up all spent annuals and compost them. Replant your beds with winter bedding plants like Pansies, Bellis Daisies and Wallflowers for a colourful display next spring.  Move poorly located plants, and divide overcrowded perennials while the soil is still warm. Cut back faded perennials to 5cm above ground level, but don’t be too obsessive as many perennials have attractive seed heads that look stunning in autumn months. Once you’ve tidied and cleaned your plant borders, mulch them with a thick layer of compost, bark chips or well-rotted manure.

Plant trees and shrubs

The best time to plant trees, shrubs and turf is in autumn.  The earth still retains some of the summer warmth, and the temperatures still just about hold up before the winter frosts take hold. These types of conditions encourage strong root development. The added advantage of the cooler autumn temperatures is that they discourage plants from putting on growth above ground, so all the energy is put into root development. When planted in these conditions, spring plants with strong established roots will be ready to thrive.

Plant evergreens

Evergreens form the backbone of any garden, and provide structure as well as year-round interest. With warm soil and cooler conditions, autumn is the perfect time to fill any gaps in your borders. Plants like Sarcococca and Daphne will add glossy green leaves and beautifully fragrant flowers in the depths of winter while the rest of your garden is dormant. For larger gardens try planting elegant architectural shrubs like Camellias or Fatsias. 

Lift tender species

Before the frosts arrive, make sure you’ve lifted tender species like Begonias, Dahlias and Cannas. Cut back the stems and gently lift the tubers/rhizomes from the ground. Clean the soil from them and store them in trays of dry compost or sand, with just the top of crown visible. The trays can be kept in a cool, frost free place over winter until they can be replanted in spring. In very mild areas it may be possible to protect tender species without lifting them. Simply cover the crowns with a thick blanket of mulch.

Plants and Flowers

  • It’s not too late to plant daffodil and other spring-flowering bulbs, but plant now to guarantee flowers next spring. Plant tulip now as soon as you can to prevent Tulip Fire infection.
  • Plant out spring bedding displays of pansies, violas and primulas.
  • Start to plant bare-root roses – they can be planted any time between now and March.
  • Plant heathers, grasses and trailing ivy in pots for winter colour.
  • Plant magnolia trees now for a beautiful spring display.
  • Gather up fallen leaves from around the base of rose bushes which suffered from blackspot or rust this summer, to reduce the chance of infection next year.
  • Continue to lift dahlia tubers, begonias and gladiolus corms to store dry over the winter months. Remove the dead foliage before storing.
  • Cut back the yellowing foliage of herbaceous perennials, and lift and divide overcrowded clumps to maintain their vigour.

Lawn maintenance

If your lawn looks slightly worse for wear then autumn is the perfect time to revitalise it. Remove thatch (old grass clippings) and moss using a spring tined rake and add it to the compost heap. If you have large amounts of moss then you may want to use a moss killer first. In areas that receive a lot of wear (such as paths and play areas) the soil can become compacted. Improve drainage and aeration by making deep holes with the prongs of a garden fork every 10cm across the entire area.

A sandy top dressing can be brushed in afterwards, followed by an application of autumn lawn feed to prepare your lawn for the cold winter months. Autumn is a great time to lay new turf too, giving it plenty of time to establish before next summer.

 

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