Wanstead gardening: Getting ready for winter

Wansteadium’s gardening blogger, Ron, 90, who has cultivated his own little patch of E11 for more than 50 years, offers his thoughts on approaching another winter.

We’ve got – for the moment – bright blue skies and it’s dry under foot. It’s pretty chilly, yes, but nothing that a good gardening coat won’t solve. So these are ideal days to be giving your garden a good tidy up before we start to get the wintry weather.

First of all it’s a great time of year to give some attention to your lawn. Give it a good tidy up, even round the borders. You’ll probably see gardeners on TV telling you it’s a good time to aerate your lawn – which involves lancing it with a fork or even taking slim plugs of soil out of your lawn, and then filling the holes with sand.

To be honest, I think if you’ve looked after your lawn over the spring and summer, you shouldn’t need to be doing all this business. And this year I don’t think there will be too much moss in lawns because it hasn’t been so wet, so you shouldn’t be too troubled with having to rake it all out. (By “looking after” your lawn, I really mean regular mowing and occasional treatment with Evergreen, which I believe you can buy in the pet shop in Wanstead High Street. Too late this year to do it, but remember for next.)

It’s not too late either to be mowing your lawn – I gave mine a quick trim today – especially if you have a mower with a roller on it. This helps push down the wormcasts which come up after it’s rained; if you don’t push them down your lawn will gradually get very bumpy.

Incidentally, if you’ve got large dips in your lawn you can still sort these out by gradually spreading a mixture of sharp sand and loam on them – allowing the grass to come up. You’ll have to be patient (unless you want to be more adventurous in digging the grass up and filling the hole from underneath) but it will be worth it if you like a flat lawn.

Aside from the lawn there’s lots to be done in the way of cutting back and tidying up. I’ve dug up some border plants which have grown into a clump – it’s a good time to split them into two or more separate plants.

I’ve brought some fuchsias inside now – and if you have any delicate plants you might want to do the same. I lost some last Autumn.

And it’s not too early to be thinking about next year. My neighbour bought some geraniums from the pet shop which had a very pleasant red-orange flower and a crinkled variegated leaf. He said I was welcome to take cuttings, and I now have five new plants indoors which next spring will be going outside. I also planted some wallflower seeds – they are now about an inch high – and some sweet peas too (though they will cost about 10p a go). It’s really not too soon to be thinking about Spring, and somehow that reminds you that this gardening business isn’t just something that stops when the clocks go back. Nature goes on, 12 months a year, whether we’re looking or not.