Early autumn is the ideal time to scarify, aerate and top-dress lawns with an autumn lawn food.
Turf or re-seed any bare patches in lawns – sow a quick-germinating grass seed.
Rake up fallen leaves from lawns, borders and paths, and add leaves in layers to the compost heap or make leaf mould.
Dig over all vacant areas of the vegetable plot, removing any perennial weeds and plant debris. This will help to reduce the spread of any over-wintering pest and diseases.
Wallflowers, winter pansies, forget-me-nots, primulas and other hardy spring-flowering bedding plants should now be planted into well-prepared ground or patio pots and containers.
Continue planting spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and alliums. These can all be planted in beds and borders, as well as pots and containers.
Bring all tender plants into a heated greenhouse or conservatory before the first of the winter frosts. Spray plants with a combined insecticide and fungicide to prevent any pests and diseases from over-wintering.
Lift dahlia tubers after the first frost has blackened their foliage. Once lifted, remove any soil and turn them upside down in a dry, but frost-free position for a week, then lightly dust them with yellow sulphur and bury them in pots or boxes in dry sand or compost.
Plant winter and spring-flowering heathers. Erica carnea and erica darleyensis varieties can be grown in alkaline soils, and will flower from late January until April.
Prune your climbing roses now. First remove all dead, diseased, dying and weak shoots, then prune any flowered side-shoots back by two thirds of their length, and feed with rose fertilizer at the recommended rate.
Container-grown and bare-rooted roses can now be planted. If you’re planting near or where a rose has grown before, add ‘Root Grow’ mycorrhizal fungi into the planting hole to help prevent rose replant disease.
Lift and divide any poorly-flowering or overcrowded herbaceous plants, and replant them in well-prepared soil with added compost and fertilizer.
Plant evergreen, flowering, coloured-stemmed and berrying shrubs for winter interest – there’s a wide range available now.
Fruit & vegetables
Harvest apples and pears as they ripen, store undamaged fruits in a cool, dark but well ventilated position. Check regularly for any signs of rot or vermin damage.
Sow over-wintering broad beans, either in situ or, in pots to over-winter in a cold frame.
Perpetual fruiting strawberries can be planted outside now for fruits early next summer, or in pots or troughs in the greenhouse for an even earlier crop.
Store potatoes in hessian or paper sacks; keep them in a dark, cool but frost-free place.
Fix grease bands around apple and pear trees to help control winter moth caterpillars, earwigs and other pests. If trees are staked, you’ll need to put a band around the stake as well.
Plant new fruit trees and bushes – bare-rooted and container-grown choices are now available, and you can choose from trees on dwarf, medium and tall growing rootstocks. For more information, ask at your local stockist or garden centre.
There’s still time to plant over-wintering onions, shallots and garlic. Once planted, they will require very little attention.
Plant new crowns of rhubarb. Spring and autumn varieties are available, and both should be planted into well-prepared soil, with some bone-meal or organic matter incorporated.
Wildlife and bird care
Regularly clean and refill all bird feeders and bird baths. Clean out any bird boxes that were used in the spring, ready for next year.
Insulate greenhouses with bubble wrap plastic from now on, and check that heaters and thermostats work properly before any long spells of cold weather. All these measures will help to reduce heating bills.
Raise all patio pots and containers onto bricks or purpose-made pot feet to prevent them from sitting in water during the winter.