End of season tidy up starts now
I'm a great advocate of little and often when it comes to work around the garden. Not only does this make even the most horrid job more palatable it is also good for the wellness of your garden and probably of yourself too. Hand in hand with this goes timing. If you carry out tasks when they are due to be done rather than leaving everything to mount up, little and often occurs naturally. Just as nature intended a happy balance.
This is never more appropriate than at this time of year when many gardeners might feel that now summer has gone the job is done and they let things slip. I would suggest that whether it is the kitchen or flower garden or your lawn it is time to start faze one of your annual garden tidy up. With the ever increasing problem of fungal diseases in gardens, particularly on plants like Escallonia and box hedges, cleanliness is a vital component in the battle of the spread of these diseases.
I would recommend the weekly raking up of leaves as this is where fungal spores can over winter. If clearing around Escallonia, box hedges or roses with blackspot I would bag the leaves and put them in the refuse. Composting will not guarantee sufficient heat to kill off these spores so it is best to dispose of them.
Elsewhere either put your leaves in black bags to create leaf mold or compost with other garden and kitchen waste. Leaf mold tends to be on the acid side of the PH scale which can make it useful as a mulch around Rhododendrons and Camellia and other acid loving plants. Fallen leaves also harbour slug and snail eggs as well as the critters themselves. This is particularly prevalent in leaves left to get slimey so raking up regularly helps avoid this.
In the kitchen garden old plant material should be removed regularly to the compost heap and weeds should be kept from seeding. Spent crops left in the soil overwinter will only encourage diseses and slugs. Ideally a compost heap is best sited away from your veg garden but this is not always possible especially on allotments.
Lawns should be treated for weeds, perennials are the main culprits at this time of year and ridding your lawn of them now will save a lot of hardship next spring. An autumn weed and feed should do this for you. Make sure you use the specially formulated autumn version as the spring mix is not suitable now. Spot spraying with a selective lawn weed killer is also appropriate now, wait for a still warm day of 10 degrees. Give your lawn edges a final trim or even take a edging iron sharpen them up. Long straggly grass edges can potentially root over winter and also harbour slugs, snails and woodlice.
In your borders don't be tempted to prune spring and early flowering shurbs as you will be cutting off next years flowering wood. Do this after they have flowered next year but only if they need it. If you haven't done so then cut back your lavender plants hard but into an area with live foliage. Pick or prune off badly blackspot infected leaves and stems from roses and destroy. Many herbaceous plants are still flowering so keep dead heading to encourage more flowers.
Plants like Agapanthus and Libertia I leave the old flower heads on as they can be decorative through the winter. I have never found that it effects the flowering performance the following year and I have tried removing them to see. Any early spring flowered herbaceous plants like Aquilegia that have died back can have their foliage cut off. Others like Pulmonaria which have been infected by mildew can also be cut back. By doing a little and often you will enjoy your gardening much more.