Autumn is a time for enjoying the mists amid mellow fruitfulness and preparing for winter and spring.
- Admire – does your garden give you pleasure in the autumn as the leaves turn? If not, you might want to plan ahead for some seasonal colour splashes for next year.
- Are there still a few flowers to provide nectar for the late insects? Ivy is a plant whose inconspicuous but prolific flowers can be buzzing on a warm September day.
- Are there berries for food for the birds? Think blackberries, rowan, hawthorn, rose hips, cotoneaster.
Preparing for winter
We can be tempted to tidy up too much at this point.
- Do cut back most of the longer grass from areas that you may have allowed to grow up as meadow, but leave a few areas with longer stems as insect habitat. The cuttings need to be removed to keep the meadow fertility low so that the wildflowers can compete against the grasses next year.
- If you have a pond, take out rotting debris, as long as you allow it to sit next to the pond for a day or two to allow any creatures such as dragonfly larvae to crawl back into the water. Leave stones and nooks and crannies around the pond for frogs and toads to shelter under for the winter.
- Create some log or twig or leaf piles so that any hedgehogs would have a place to hibernate. Small invertebrates (beetles, worms, woodlice) benefit too.
- Leave seed heads in the flower border for birds to eat – sparrows love the buddleia. Ladybirds shelter in the seedheads.
Thinking ahead to spring
- It’s not too early to put up bird and bat boxes. The birds will get accustomed to the boxes over the winter, and the bats may use their boxes as winter roosts.
- Plant bulbs, to provide early nectar for when those early insects start to emerge.
- Scatter seed from wildflower heads ready for them to germinate when it starts to get a bit warmer.
by Ann Stuart