As the weather starts to become more challenging, it is beneficial to spend some time out in the garden preparing for winter before it becomes too cold. There’s plenty to do, so we’ve put together a checklist to help you get started.
- There’s still time to plant spring flowering bulbs for a colourful display once spring arrives.
- Winter bedding is now available – liven up containers with a display of pansies, violas and primulas. Combine with evergreen shrubs and trailing plants for additional interest.
- Bare root trees and roses can be planted between now and February.
- Remove decayed foliage on perennials. You can lift and divide overcrowded clumps to maintain vigour and produce additional plants.
- Apply a mulch on flowerbeds.
- Protect any tender plants by bringing them into a greenhouse or conservatory.
- Lightly prune shrubs to neaten their appearance prior to their hard pruning in spring.
- Take hardwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs and trees.
- Take root cuttings from your favourite perennials to help fill the gaps next year. You can store them in a cold frame or greenhouse to take root.
- Clean out the greenhouse, washing the glass, floor and staging with horticultural disinfectant. Replace any broken glass before winter sets in.
- You can insulate the inside of the greenhouse with bubblewrap if you are overwintering tender plants in it.
- Insulate outdoor containers with hessian or bubblewrap.
- Tools, seed trays and containers can be washed, dried and stored away to protect from overwintering pests and diseases.
- Insulate pipes and taps to prevent freezing.
- Gather leaves from the lawn and pond to make your own leaf mould. Don’t be too hasty to take leaves from the borders, grubs and bugs amongst them will provide a good source of food for birds.
- If you have a vegetable garden, apply well rotted manure to the across the beds to rot down over winter.
- Provide fat balls in wire cages for birds – remove from plastic nets to prevent birds getting caught in them.
- Put out finely chopped bacon rind and grated cheese for small birds such as wrens. Sunflower hearts and peanuts are ideal for sparrows, finches, nuthatches and tits, whilst thrushes and blackbirds will favour fruits such as over-ripe apples and raisins. Blue tits and robins prefer mealworms.
- Keep a bird bath topped up through winter.
- Hollow stemmed perennials will provide homes for overwintering insects, leave unpruned until spring.
- Consider planting shrubs that will provide fruit over winter and to provide cover at a boundary – perhaps cotoneaster or pyracantha?
- Check bonfires for sheltering animals, such as hedgehogs, toads and frogs and be careful when turning compost heaps. You can provide leaf and log piles in a sheltered corner for hibernation.
- Shallow dishes of water at ground level in the garden will provide a drink for all garden wildlife.
- Hedgehogs should be settling down to hibernate now, if you see one they will probably benefit from some food and then left to find suitable shelter. Feed with dog or cat food and put a dish of water out to drink.
With summer in full swing, it’s a great time to see what we can do to extend the flowering season in the garden, to provide valuable nectar for beneficial insects well into autumn. In addition to providing enjoyment on a personal level, adding flowering perennials and shrubs to your border, can play a vital role in supporting our declining bee population.
Bees play an important role in pollination throughout the UK and are responsible for pollinating flowers and crops that provide approximately a third of our food supply. It has been well-documented that their numbers are dramatically reducing due to a number of difficulties including a loss of natural resources and nesting sites, disease and the increased use of insecticides in modern farming.
Bees and flowers are directly dependent on each other – bees use flowers for the food source of nectar and pollen, with flowers needing bees for pollination, therefore selecting the correct plants is important and our gardens can be a valuable resource. So, if you’d like to opt for some bee-friendly plants, here are a few pointers that you might like to consider.
* Choose a variety of simple flower forms rather than cultivated double-flowering varieties, which provide little food for pollinators.
* A sunny sheltered area of the garden is an ideal place to site nectar-rich planting.
* Colour and scent is vital in attracting bees with blues, pinks and purples being favourites.
* Swathes of bee-friendly plants are easier for bees to locate than individual plants, allowing them to focus on one type of plant for the whole day and in turn conserving energy.
* Try to select plants that provide a long flowering period throughout their life cycle from early spring to autumn.
* If you have a smaller garden, consider vertical space. For example, honeysuckle climbing up a trellis can provide a valuable nectar source for bees, together with supplying berries for birds.
* Limit the use of pesticides, especially when plants are in flower as this is likely to harm beneficial insects as well as the ones you don’t want.
Residential gardens cover over one million acres in Britain, so whilst our choice of planting as individuals cannot provide the complete solution, it can certainly have a very positive impact on our native bee population. You can find a few suggestions for bee-friendly planting suggestions below, but keep an eye out for the RHS ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ logo whilst buying plants, or alternatively pop into you local nursery for some personal advice. There is always somebody willing to help at Chestnut – we look forward to seeing you here soon.
Spring flowering Summer flowering Late summer-autumn
Crocus Honeysuckle Sedum
Bluebell Lavender Verbena
Crabapple Foxgloves Echinops
Flowering currant Sweet pea Cornflower
Ajuga Aquilegia Rudbeckia
Pussy willow Catmint Monarda
Rosemary Cosmos Angelica
Pulmonaria Penstemon Aster
Viburnum Buddleja Echinacea
Hellebore Thyme Perovskia