Autumnal berries in the Yeo Valley organic garden

Andi’s Autumn in the Garden

There’s always lots going on in the garden this time of year. The first thing for us to tackle is getting the garden tidied up after the summer and planting 35,000 bulbs! A huge task, but actually a lovely one, as we can look forward to our hard work paying off when we get to see the results next year.

Green manure to protect the soil in the gardenWe finish clearing out our vegetable beds at this time of year; taking the crop out to see how the soil is. We’re on a clay here in our garden so it can bake quite hard over the summer meaning we need to turn it over ready for the green manure. The winter rain can really damage the soil structure and wash all the nutrients, that we work so hard to get into the soil, away. So we use a green manure cover as a protection for the soil surface. This year we’re using a new mix of rye grass, mustard and white clover, which looks to be thriving so far, but we’ll see how that goes over the course of the season. The green manure also makes a good habitat for any little bugs that might want to make a home in it.

making a bug habitat for winterThere’s a big grass border that we’d usually cut in the spring or late winter, but we’ve cut it now so that we can make habitats for lacewings, ladybirds and other insects out of the long grass cuttings. We bundle them up to make fairly fat bunches and tie them with string in the centre, then place them under our hedges. homemade bug habitat placed under a hedge for winterIt’s something we wouldn’t normally do, as the garden is quite diverse and full of natural habitats, but this costs us nothing and we’re cutting it anyway. If you wanted to do this in your own garden you could also use groups of branches and twigs.

We’ve now finished insulating our glass house. It’s a bit of an awkward job but well worth it! This will really help our heating efficiency meaning our energy bills will be lower and, of course, it’s much better for the environment too.

We’re planting some winter salads this year – oriental leaves that we can grow through the winter. If it’s mild they’ll do well but if it does get a bit cold, we’ll need to make cloches for them or grow them in the glass house. Now’s the time to get your spring cabbages in as well!

We also keep the grass longer over the autumn and winter, adding some potassium rich feed to help thicken the cells walls to keep it much healthier and more hardy. The longer grass doesn’t necessarily look as nice but has more strength and vigour and more surface area to photosynthesise over the shorter days. Make the most of any sunshine we will have!

We don’t normally feed the birds over the summer as there are plenty of insects for them to eat in the garden but over the winter we do put out bird feeders so that they don’t move off. We like having the little birds and ground birds in the garden as they scratch around and take the larvae from under the soil surface. Birds are a very good pest control for us as they like to eat the things that can do damage in the garden. We also like to leave the plants instead of cutting them back so that the birds can have those seeds as well. We tend to cut things down in February. It’s a good time to tidy up the hedges as there aren’t any birds nesting in there that can be disturbed.

If I had to pick my top 3 jobs for the winter, they’d be:

  1. Feed the birds. It will help them over the winter and they’ll repay you in the spring and summer by eating all of the unwanted insects in your garden.
  2. Use a green manure. It will do so much to protect your soil and it’s easy to dig in.
  3. Pick your seeds. I love sitting by the fire on a cold and wet weekend with my seed catalogues to pick what I’d like to grow next year.

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