Gardening: A few last-minute jobs to do outdoors before winter really sets in
IT'S almost time to batten the hatches before winter arrives. Here are a few of the last-minute jobs should you be doing...
1. Shelter vulnerable plants: My pots of geraniums (pelargoniums) are still going strong but they won't be for much longer, so if you want to keep them for next year, find them some shelter now. Cut them back to 10cm (4in) and put pots in a light, frost-free place such as a greenhouse or a sheltered porch next to the house. If the spot isn't completely frost-free, wrap the pots in bubble wrap to give them extra protection. Do the same with fuchsias, cutting them back before you put them under cover for winter, and hardly water them at all until growth starts again in spring.
2. Divide perennials: The ground should still be soft enough to dig up overcrowded clumps of perennials and split them, replanting the divided clumps to give them more space. This will lead to better performance in subsequent years and you've also increased your stock. Good subjects for division include crocosmia, rudbeckia, helenium, cranesbill geranium and catmint.
3. Trim hedges: Try to do this when the weather's still fine. If you tidy evergreen hedges now, they will look neat until next year as they won't put on much new growth during the cooler months. Also, trimming now may save you a bigger job in spring, when you also risk disturbing birds' nests. Deciduous shrubs can be pruned into winter.
4. Get rid of the last of the weeds: Try to dig out any pernicious perennial weeds you see lurking, such as bindweed, couch grass and ground elder. You'll need to dig them out completely, root and all, as if you leave any fragments of root in the soil they will come back in spring. If you have areas which have been totally invaded, consider covering the ground with sheets of black plastic, secured with bricks at each corner, which will stop the light and hopefully kill the weed in a few months.