Leaves tumbling down and covering your lawn and patio are not just a sure sign that autumn has arrived. It’s a signal that those long sunny days and evenings spent enjoying your outdoor spaces are coming to an end.
The nights are drawing in, there’s a definite nip in the air. The seasons are turning, and it’s time to get your garden ready for the less pleasant weather to come.
For keen gardeners, early autumn represents one last flurry of activity before the quieter months come around. There are beds to prepare for spring, bulbs to plant, perhaps the last of the season’s harvest to pick before old plants are dug up.
But even if you are not a committed gardening enthusiast, it is still well worth putting a little time aside to give your outdoor areas a once over. A tidy up and putting things in order will help to keep up appearances through the winter months and save you time and effort when you do want to use your garden again. Anything left a little rough around the edges now will only get worse over the intervening months.
Plus, you should bear in mind that high winds, heavy rain, snow and frost can cause damage, especially to garden furniture. One of the main reasons for giving everything a last once over is to pack away or secure anything that is vulnerable, and carry out some last maintenance before the worst of the weather hits.
Here are some top tips for easy wins to focus on.
Clear away any debris
As we said, the most obvious sign that autumn has arrived is leaves blowing across your garden. You won’t be able to tidy this up completely until after all the trees have shed their foliage, but there are some good reasons for keeping on top of it.
One is that leaving piles of leaves on your paths and paved areas can become a trip hazard when they get wet and start to break down. It might not seem like it now when they are crisp and dry, but rotting leaves can become quite slippery, especially after heavy rain.
The other reason is that it isn’t just leaves that fall from trees. Especially after high winds, twigs and sticks get scattered around, too. If these are left to blow around in the blustery conditions you typically get during autumn, you can end up with your car, your windows and any furniture you leave out getting scratched.
Wash down paved paths and patios
The reason to do this is that clean paving is less prone to being slippery when there’s a frost. If you leave stone slabs with a few months’ growth of moss and lichen on, when temperatures do fall below freezing, these can turn very icy.
Simply going over your paved areas with a stiff outdoor brush and warm soapy water will do the trick. Or if you have a pressure washer, you’ll have an even easier job on your hands.
Clear out weeds
There are two very good reasons why giving your outdoor spaces a thorough weed makes perfect sense in autumn. One, those pesky intruding plants might be preparing to go to sleep for the winter. But if you can see them now, just imagine what they will be like when they start to grow and multiply come spring. You will have twice the job on your hands. At least.
Second, weeding now is easier than it will ever be. Any invasive plants you can see are on the decline, they are not at their vigorous and resilient best like they were just a few short weeks ago. Their roots won’t be so healthy, they will be easier to pull.
Oh, and we might as well throw in a third good reason. It makes everything look nice and tidy ready for the winter.
Take care of your garden furniture
Depending on what it is made out of and how sturdy it is, your options for readying your garden furniture for winter include stashing it away somewhere indoors, covering it or leaving it to the elements – maybe with a clean down and a coat of something to keep it safe.
It goes without saying that anything made of fabric, including chair and sofa base and back cushions, should be stored away indoors. Many outdoor furniture accessories these days are made of weather-resistant synthetic fibres. But that’s so they can survive an accidental dousing in an unforeseen summer shower, not three or four months of being water logged.
Most wooden furniture, if it is hardwood at least, will be ok outdoors, but different types need different amounts of protection. Oak, for example, should be covered or varnished, while teak is so naturally water-resistant that it can be left to its own devices without any concerns at all.
If you have wicker furniture, meanwhile, the chances are these days that it will be synthetic and therefore completely weather resistant. But bear in mind that wicker and rattan furniture is relatively lightweight, so high winds may pose a risk.
Readying Your Outdoor Spaces for Winter is a feature post