Professional Gardener - Shovels at the ready

Be prepared Make sure that shovels and snow brushes are handy. Snow shovels should be placed strategically where it is necessary to maintain access – conservatories, glasshouses, boiler sheds and workshop area, especially where snow ploughs or blowers and grit spreaders are stored. Check all vehicles are winter-ready and all outdoor workers have appropriate winter clothing.

Continue tidying Remove leaves from lawns and flower beds. Use the leaves for composting or mulching shrub beds. Finish tidying herbaceous borders, cutting dead or dying stems. Carry out autumn pruning of roses. To thin shrubberies, lift and transplant dormant shrubs to other parts of the gardens. Cultivate any free ground in borders and vegetable gardens. Remove fallen leaves and debris from grilles and guttering to ensure rainfall and melting snow escape quickly.

Lawns Grass continues to need mowing, as conditions allow. Also take advantage of favourable conditions to aerate and consider the application of an autumn fertiliser, depending on function and expectations of the grassed area.

Water features Remove old leaves and thin out oxygenating plants. Overhaul pumping equipment for fountains and waterfall and drain pipes as necessary for winter months.
Hedges Now is an excellent time to inspect deciduous hedges. With few or no leaves, it is possible to see into them and it is easier to do pruning work required to keep hedges within bounds. Give a last trim to other deciduous hedges if necessary. Clean out the base of hedges.

Woodland Use foggy or misty mornings to inspect woodland. Garden writer Gertrude Jekyll used similar conditions to decide which trees to remove — the fog only allowing a small number to be seen at any one time.

In the workshop Prepare for any in-house machinery servicing by checking stocks of filters and oils or make arrangements for the local dealer to carry out maintenance during December to early January. Tools also need maintenance. Check, clean, sharpen and grease hand tools as appropriate and sand down any rough parts of wooden handles and shafts. Note those tools that will soon be in need of replacement.

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

Rodents Consider laying bait boxes for rodent control.

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