Gathering autumn leaves

Autumn action plan

Find out what you can do in autumn to prepare your garden for winter and next year.

The garden may be winding down in autumn, but there are still plenty of key jobs to do.

Discover our top plant combinations for autumn.

Here are our top 10 tasks to crack on with in autumn – get these done and you'll be set for winter, and the following gardening year.

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Pick apples

Apples are ripe and ready for picking when the first windfalls appear on the ground or the fruit on branches comes away easily when lifted and given a gentle twist. Watch our video guide to picking apples. Not all are good to eat straightaway so store them - some need time for their flavour to develop.

Overwinter bedding plants

Many bedding plants are treated as annuals and can be composted. Alternatively, trim back all stems to 10cm. Remove plants from their pots, shake off excess soil, then pack the crowns into trays filled with moist, peat-free multi purpose, keeping the tops above the surface. Put them in a frost-free but light spot, watering occasionally. 

Gather fallen leaves

Collect leaves to turn into leaf mould. Prioritise clearing from lawns and grey-leaved plants like lavender (which rot easily), paths (where they can become slippery) and gravel (where they can break down to make soil pockets where weeds can germinate).

Divide perennials

Autumn is a great time to divide perennials. Target plants with crowns that have died in the centre. Divide them by driving two forks into the clump and levering the handles together. Replant the most vigorous pieces into soil, freshened with a couple of handfuls of compost.

Plant new veg crops

Several veg crops can be sown in autumn, including garlic, winter-hardy broad beans such as 'Sutton', and winter onions. Winter salad and spring cabbages can be sown direct outside and covered with cloches.

Prune trees

As soon as leaves start to fall, tackle the pruning of wayward or rubbing branches on ornamentals and apple trees. Cut small, easily handled branches in one go, while tackling larger ones in sections. Discover the plant types to prune in autumn.

Ripen a pumpkin

Ripen pumpkins in a sunny, frost-free place such as a porch or greenhouse. Harvest with 15cm of stem attached. Turn occasionally to expose all the skin to the light. After a few weeks the skin will go hard and the stem will fall away, sealing the stalk for winter storage.

Sow a green manure

Green manures protect beds from winter rains that can wash away nutrients and break down soil structure. Sow them in autumn, on bare ground. The plants will quickly knit together to form a green cover. Field beans and Hungarian grazing rye are two to try.

Tidy your pond

Fallen leaves will rot into a gunk at the bottom of the pond. This smells bad and releases nutrients that will feed water-choking algae next summer. If there are trees near your pond, temporarily cover it with a net to stop leaves falling in.

Plant spring bulbs

Plant daffodils, crocus, tulips and more in borders and pots for a beautiful spring display. Always plant so the top of the bulb is buried by twice its own depth of soil. Discover 10 spring bulbs for pots.

Get these done and you'll be set for winter, and the following gardening year.

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