GARDENA tips for your garden
Caring for your beds: For many people, the words "well kept beds" represent a meticulous process of raking and hoeing that starts right now in autumn. But be careful! In particular around flat-rooted shrubs like lilacs, philadelphus and rhododendrons, it's better hold back on mechanical soil cultivation, as this can impair root growth. A better option is to leave most of the foliage until it becomes wet and sticks to the ground - this is the time to scatter over some bark compost. Doing this will stop the majority of the foliage being blown away and will allow it to decompose quickly under the shrub, in turn cultivating the soil and protecting the roots.
Draining water pipes: Pipes that are prone to freezing must be drained promptly to ensure that water does not freeze within them and cause them to burst. To do this, open the taps and close the valves inside the pipe, which will cause the pipe to fill with air. However, if you are using an automatic irrigation system, open all of the outlet valves and connect a compressor to the main pipe. The compressed air produced will blow all of the water out of the pipes. Close the valves again once the pipes are empty.
Raised beds: At this time of year, ensure that autumn and winter rainfall will not flood your raised beds. Models that are open at the bottom are easier to care for as they allow excess rainfall and irrigation water to drain away. Models with a tub insert must have drainage with an overflow outlet to allow excess water to escape properly. If this equipment is not included in the manufacturer's design, drill suitable holes into the side of the tub. Depending on how much water you need to retain in summer, allow a maximum water level of two to three centimetres in tubs without drainage. For tubs with a drainage height of between five and seven centimetres (gravel or clay with a membrane on top), drill the holes just below the membrane.
Preparing motorised devices for winter: Mowers, tillers, garden hoes, lawn aerators and any other devices that are no longer being used should be cleaned thoroughly. Once the device is clean and dry, rub a thin layer of machine care oil ("sewing machine oil") onto metal sections to prevent rusting. If the device has an internal combustion engine, empty the tanks and seal them tightly so that no moisture can get in. You'll have a much easier time if you buy battery-powered tools instead.
Remembrance days: November is traditionally the month of remembrance days, during which time the graves of deceased family members and friends are spruced up and planted for the autumn. It's best to keep it simple at sites where you can bring only a few tools along. This is where practical plug-in systems have proven to be especially useful, as you only need one handle for several tools and even a broom.
Cleaning the guttering: At this time of year, guttering can collect leaves, which over time will cause blockages. Rainwater will then run off the roof tiles and spill over, making parts of your home wet where you would prefer to keep it dry. It's best to clean your guttering in November once the first frosts have already come and the trees are already bare. You can place special net or mesh protective elements on the guttering to prevent it from becoming blocked again. Doing this will stop the leaves blocking the guttering but let the water pass through. Be careful! Make sure that the ladder is placed in a secure position.
Save the hedgehogs: If you find a hedgehog weighing less than 400 grams, it has probably been born in late autumn and is too small to survive the winter. Hedgehog rescue centres (for example britishhedgehogs.org.uk) offer practical advice on how to feed them up and care for them during the winter months. Special food for hedgehogs is available in pet shops.
Checking outdoor lights: As the nights are draw in, good outdoor lighting is required more often and for longer. Now is a good time to check all exterior lights and their motion detectors on a dry day. After all, it's better to be safe than sorry. If you're still using traditional light bulbs, it is worth thinking about replacing them with energy-saving LED bulbs to make them fit for the future.
Cutting lawn edges: Dense turf on lawns consists of deciduous and runner-forming grass seeds. The latter often outgrow the mown edges into neighbouring beds or find their way through the joins between corner blocks that are not set in mortar into the cracks between slabs and pavement surfaces. You can use a lawn edging spade to cleanly carve out the contours of your lawn. As you are already working on the lawn edges, it may be worth thinking about setting up induction loops for a robotic lawnmower at the same time. Doing so would allow you to automate lawn mowing right from the start of spring.
Filling up firewood stocks: Anyone who has a fireplace or a wood burning stove knows how warm (and cosy) they can make you feel. Make sure that you don't have to go and traipse around the garden in the dark, wet and cold by storing around a month's supply of firewood close to the house in a place that is within easy reach and doesn't require you to get your feet wet. It's best to also prepare the required quantity of kindling at the same time: Use a garden axe and chopping block to chop up wood (softwood works best) into small chips. Store in boxes and keep dry.
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