Gardening: Take your leave for autumn tidy

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LATE October and early November usually see the first hard frosts of autumn.

Your lawn will start accumulating leaves, rake them off as soon as possible to avoid yellow patches. They can be used fresh around shrubs as mulch and will help enrich the soil.

Alternatively, store them in old compost bags and they will rot down in a couple of years. Puncture the bags to prevent them becoming anaerobic, they make a superb potting mix or seed sowing compost.

If your lawn dries out you can give it a final cut for the season.

The last herbaceous plants will be going over, even the late flowering stalwart Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ will be starting to look shabby.

Consider leaving some seed heads for effect, they make fine winter skeletons and can be left until February or March.

Fennel, miscanthus, verbena and teasel can look decorative and help attract seed-eating birds.

Many also have hollow stems – cut into short sections bundled together these make ideal over-wintering homes for insects such as ladybirds and lacewings, vital for keeping plants aphid-free in summer.

Surplus material can be cut up and put on the compost heap – or in your brown bin – and is worth its weight in gold next year.

When it isn’t frosty, you can almost guarantee it will be windy.

Shrubs such as buddleja, cistus, ceanothus and even roses can suffer badly with wind rock. A light prune over any long growth can help stability.

The prunings of buddleja and roses can be used to produce new plants from hardwood cuttings.

Cut into pieces about 20-25cm long, above and below a bud or leaf, bury them vertically with only a centimetre above ground and you will be surprised how many have produced roots by next summer.

When they show signs of starting to grow they can be potted or transplanted.

n Pete Brownless is garden supervisor at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh