Autumn for gardeners

Some handy tips on how to prepare your garden for winter.

By Michelle Cleave

Autumn leaves close up

Autumn is a vibrant time of year with crisp, dewy mornings and the changing of tree leaves into rich colours of red and gold that glow in the buttery yellow light. The air becomes damper and decidedly musty as winter approaches and dormancy begins — a natural part of the life cycle of many plants. The deciduous katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) begins to release its delicious toffee apple scent and reminds us that autumn is a time of harvest. This time of year presents moments of reflection in the garden, when successes can be celebrated and improvements considered. 

Here are a few tips on how to tend to your garden during the autumn months in preparation for winter. 


  • Raise the height of cut on mowers as lawn growth slows 

  • The soil is still warm enough to sow or turf new lawns 

  • Scarify and aerate lawns to improve drainage on compacted soils and promote healthy growth 

  • Apply a top dress to even out levels which will keep roots healthy over winter 

  • Keep off lawns in frosty weather

Flower borders 

  • Cut back herbaceous plants and tidy for winter 

  • Lift and store dahlia tubers and summer-flowering bulbs 

  • Plant new borders and lift and divide overgrown herbaceous perennials 

  • Pot up ‘free’ rogue seedling perennials for next year’s displays 

  • Plant spring bedding, including lily and tulip bulbs 

  • Plant out spring-flowering biennials 

  • Cultivate new beds before winter rain


  • Prune rambling and climbing roses when flowers are over 

  • Take hardwood cuttings 

  • Prune shrub roses to prevent wind rock

Shrubs and trees 

  • Plant new trees, shrubs and climbers 

  • Transplant shrubs 

  • Winter prune deciduous trees, shrubs, and fruit trees, and renovate hedges 

  • Take hardwood cuttings


  • Keep ponds clear of autumn leaves 

  • Tidy of spent growth of aquatic plants 

  • Keep pond and water features from freezing over