Professional gardener - Cruel weather

Be prepared November and December can be kind or cruel. This year we are expecting them to be cruel. If the weather forecasters are right, we need to get ready for a severe winter — starting next month. If you do not already receive weather alerts for your area, visit the Met Office website and sign up. It is free and will give you some warning of weather events heading your way. Make sure that snow- and ice-clearing equipment and products are to hand and check greenhouse and conservatory heating is functioning. Plan work lists to be flexible so that the better days can be spent outdoors while some work is retained in the greenhouse, shed or office for the more Arctic-like conditions.

Clear leaves now Start clearing leaves from lawns and grassed areas as soon as volumes amass, and certainly before the snow falls, so disease can be reduced. Leaves can be collected while mowing on drier days, but remember to adjust the cutting height so the grass is left longer as light levels fall. Ornamental lawns can be cut at around 12mm from now on, although really fine lawns can be cut a little lower — say 10mm. General lawns are best left around 18mm and less formal, amenity grass can be left at 45-50mm. Remove fallen fruits from fruit gardens to limit the spread of pests and diseases — though a scattering of apples on a spare piece of ground away from orchard areas will provide a tasty meal for blackbirds and thrushes.

Irrigation equipment Do not leave hosepipes out when temperatures are likely to fall to freezing. Drain down any irrigation systems that may be subject to freezing temperatures. Check the insulation on pipework in greenhouses and conservatories.

Greenhouse & conservatory Heat when necessary but remember that good air circulation is also essential. Take every opportunity to ventilate greenhouses and conservatories when weather and temperature permit. Water indoor plants and displays more carefully.

Autumn colours The effect of autumn in terms of leaf colour varies from year to year and there can be as much as four or five weeks’ difference in the peak period in gardens in the south of England compared with the North of Scotland. Wherever you are, don’t miss out on autumn vibrancy. Visit neighbouring gardens, estates and parks, and note species that are putting on spectacular displays.

Fungi watch Fruiting bodies can be an indication of infection. Now is a good time for an inspection.

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