As the chilly weather sets in across South Africa, here are the garden cleaning chores you should be focusing on this month.
Autumn leaf clean up
Deciduous trees losing their leaves over autumn can form dense mats of leaves that can cover groundcovers and lawns, preventing them from getting any sunlight and they can become a hazard on hard surfaces like pathways and paving.
These leaves, however, can be very useful in the garden:
• Rake up or use a blower to collect leaves and place in black plastic bags. Store the black bags in a cool, dark place over winter and in spring and summer, this decomposed rich humus will be ready to use in the garden as a compost.
• Collected leaves can be used in garden beds as a mulch and will break down to feed nutrients into the soil. Be careful not to put the leaves close to the stems of plants as this may cause the stems to rot. Rake the leaves on the lawn and then go over them with a lawnmower set on high. This will break down the leaves to make a good mulch for the garden. Make sure the lawn is dry before cutting up the leaves.
Water feature clean up
This month and into winter, ponds, birdbaths and water features need annual attention and cleaning. Over the seasons, debris falls into water features and will eventually compromise the quality of the water. Clear out all the debris in the water and clear any vegetation along the rims of ponds to neaten. Add fresh water to any water features that do not have any fish in them. Those with fish need a bit more attention – changing the water requires removing the fish, making sure the water is the correct temperature, and that there are no harmful chemicals present before putting any fish back in the water.
Pathway and patio cleaning
Any place that people are walking can become hazardous if not maintained. Fix any loose bricks or pavers along pathways and on patios and then clean off any dirt, especially if there is moss or algae growth that will make it slippery. Use boiling water to kill off any plant material, a product with copper sulphate, or bring in the big guns and use a pressure sprayer.
Clean and paint
This is a good time of the year to look at any garden furniture and give them a makeover. First, remove any cushions and wash any fabric. Wooden furniture may need a good sanding and resealing with wood sealer or wax. Metal and plastic may need a coat of paint after preparing the surface well with a clean and a light sanding. Fix any problems and tighten bolts.
Clean and protect wood
Any wood products like furniture, decks, pergolas and fences need an annual inspection and, if not up to scratch, a thorough clean and reseal or paint. Any surface must be cleaned to remove dust, dirt, oil, mildew and mould and dried off before sanding. Seal with a few coats of a wood protecting product that is specially formulated for outdoor wood and includes UV protection.
Garden bed clean up
This time of the year is perfect to clean up garden beds, remove old plants and get the soil ready for new plants. Dig in plenty of compost and rake the area well. Plant winter crops in the veg garden like spinach, mustard, and brassicas or add a layer of mulch (like fallen leaves) over the soil to keep it warm and the microbes working in the soil ready for spring.