Gareth Austin - To Prune or not to prune…
The phrase ‘putting the garden to bed for the Winter’, ‘giving everything a cut back’, ‘cutting everything back’ all common phrases spoken at this time of year…and all either nonsense or bad practice.
Within the cycles of your garden there is no start and stop, there is no black or white in nature, everything continues along with different lifecycles of all the species, both flora and fauna in your garden overlapping. This time of year the focus on many of the plants in your garden are on rest, where they enter their dormant stages, battening down their hatches to (hopefully) see out the winter weather and regrow when the soil temps rise again. Plants do this is different forms, some defoliate, some harden growth and other retreat to storage roots below soil surface. The small insects in your garden largely do the same, they look for somewhere nice and cosy to settle down for the winter and see out the storm, this could be in the hollow stems of plants, below piles of leaves, in-between plant pots, really wherever they feel comfortable and safe.
This is why, I urge you, to leave your garden a bit unkempt at this time of year, a bit untidy if you wish. Don’t be scraping all the leaves away from under your plants – pile them up there instead – providing fertility for next year, a protective layer for the soil and habitat for insects and a home for beneficial fungi.
Don’t do the ‘cutting everything back’ nonsense. A simple guide is that the best time to prune something is when it has finished flowering, if you prune at the wrong time of year you interrupt the plant's growth and reproductive cycles, this may be the reason your plants grow like mad every year but never flower! A canopy of foliage, stems and branches in the garden provide habitat for insects, and in turn food for birds and also shelter and protection for your songbirds that visit and chirp their way through the dark winter days.
When it comes to the lawn you should be carrying our any cuts now on the highest setting for your lawnmower, just cutting to keep it even and tidy looking. Not only does this provide ample space for beneficial insects but it also means going into the spring you have less weeds and moss and the lawn is in better condition.
Through the Autumn and winter months you’ll still be footering in the garden, gathering fallen leaves off the lawn and bagging them in dry days, planting tulip bulbs, cleaning glasshouses, maybe harvesting some savoy and broccoli from the veg garden, filling up the bird feeders, and there should be plenty of flowers, foliage and stem colour in the garden to catch your eye – from the red stemmed Dogwoods to the winter flowers Viburnums and Skimmias and of course the early Snowdrops.
So this time of year is not the end of the growing season, it is merely a slow-down, an opportunity to take stock, to enjoy the October light hitting the yellowing foliage, and if you dig up a daffodil bulb now you’ll find a whole heap of fresh roots emerging, gearing the plant up for Spring!
If your garden is needing some fresh thinking, or you’re in need of some expert advice then give Gareth a call on 00353877803991 and book a Garden Consultation.
With natural gas, there is no need for that massive oil tank taking up valuable garden space. Interested in connecting to natural gas home heating? Enter your postcode below and click the 'Can I Connect' button.
Connect with Gareth
Gareth Austin is a broadcaster and lecturer in Horticulture. Join Gareth on Twitter @GardenerGareth or connect via Facebook to enjoy his regular adventures in the world of Horticulture. www.garethaustin.com