Gathering brown, fallen oak leaves in autumn with an extended metal grabber

Tidying the garden in autumn

Tidying the garden in autumn keeps it looking neat in winter and means that you'll get a head start next spring. Here are the areas to tackle.

Autumn is the ideal time to give your garden a thorough tidy, before the cold weather sets in.

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As well as clearing fallen leaves, there are lots of other simple tasks that will make a big difference to the look of your garden.

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It’s worth putting in a little extra time and effort now, so your garden will look neat and well-tended through the winter months – it will also mean that you’ve got a head start next spring.

As well as clearing fallen leaves, there are lots of other simple tasks that will make a big difference to the look of your garden.

Tidy your borders

Remove dying leaves and collapsed stems from herbaceous perennials, either pulling by hand or cutting at the base with secateurs. Leave any stems that have attractive seedheads for birds to enjoy. Remove weeds, then spread compost or well rotted manure over the soil to insulate plant roots – the worms will work it in over winter.

Clearing dead leaves and stems from a border by hand
Clearing dead leaves and stems from a border by hand

Collect autumn leaves

A few piles of leaves in out-of-the-way places – under hedges, for example – can provide shelter for overwintering wildlife. But remove leaves from your lawn, paths (which can be slippery) and borders. Use them to make leaf mould, a great soil improver.

Gathering brown, fallen oak leaves with an extended metal grabber
Gathering brown, fallen oak leaves with an extended metal grabber

Clear away old crops

Clear spent plants on the veg plot before they start to rot and become host to pests and diseases. Compost everything unless it’s diseased. Chop beans and peas off at ground level, leaving their nitrogen-fixing roots in the soil to feed next year’s crops. You could also sow a green manure, a great soil improver.

Snipping the base of a dead stem with secateurs
Snipping the base of a dead stem with secateurs

Leave your lawn looking trim

Nothing sets off borders better that a neatly cut and edged lawn, so mow for the final time. Set your mower blades higher than usual to leave the grass slightly longer over winter, then cut the edges with an edging tool or knife to redefine their pristine lines.

Trimming the edge of a lawn beside a path with an edging knife
Trimming the edge of a lawn beside a path with an edging knife

Put away plant supports

Cut down annual climbers in borders and climbing beans in veg plots and remove the dead stems and foliage from their supports. With canes and other removable wooden supports, wash off any soil then treat them with preservative. Store them indoors over winter.

Removing old runner bean stems from a cane wigwam support
Removing old runner bean stems from a cane wigwam support

Make repairs

Repair damage to raised beds, sheds and compost bins, and paint them with wood preservative. Replace any rotting fence posts, so they don’t get blown down in winter storms. Ensure shed roofs don’t leak, and replace any broken panes or faulty vents in greenhouses.

Re-spraying a weathered garden fence with blue wood preservative
Re-spraying a weathered garden fence with blue wood preservative

Clean out nest boxes and feeders

Take down bird boxes and empty them. Old nesting material, unfertilised eggs and other debris may carry diseases, so wash out the boxes with hot water before putting them back. Also remember to clean out feeders and bird baths, and regularly refill them.

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Scrubbing inside a wire mesh bird feeder with a soapy bottle brush
Scrubbing inside a wire mesh bird feeder with a soapy bottle brush

Sort out your pond

Scoop out leaves that have blown into your pond, before they sink down and start to rot. Also cut back the foliage of marginal plants that have died down. Remove pond pumps and fountains that are no longer in use. Wash them out thoroughly, then store over winter.

Scooping fallen leaves from a garden pond with a net
Scooping fallen leaves from a garden pond with a net