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The autumn garden jobsAdvertising Feature

TOOL PROGRAM: Wash, dry and oil is the maintenance schedule for your gardening tools. It's a great idea to help keep them in tip top order. Photo: Shutterstock

Ask a gardener what their favourite time of the year is, and they are bound to say autumn.

Apart from the Goldilocks factor - it's not too hot, not too cold - just know that whatever you pop in the ground, it is going to grow.

It doesn't seem to matter if your soil is happily full of the best nutrients (manure in other words) or it is lean and mean and full of rocks, it's the time of the year when Mother Nature gives every plant the best shot possible.

To help you get ahead of the experts, and their 'M for maintenance' mantra, use this as your own list of autumn gardening jobs that need attention, and tackle one or two of these outdoor items each week.

Autumn clean up

Sweep, dust and de-clutter. This means leaving nowhere for the pests to hide. Sweep out plant debris and disinfect all paths and driveways. Before you pack up the pots and seed trays ready for spring, give them a good clean, and dry thoroughly.

Clear out the compost bin

The autumn clean up of borders and vegetable plots always leaves you with leftover plant material for your compost heap, which is a good thing. Make sure you clear out last year's compost and use it around the garden, then give the bin a good scrubbing inside and out, and dry in hot sun. Now you can start a fresh compost with this year's waste.

Trim your hedges

Autumn is a good time to prune especially all the leggy leafy growth from last season. Trimming hedges so they look neat and tidy before the winter sets in will help to keep them compact. Pathways will also be clear for pedestrians at ground level.

Tidy up your borders

Once your borders are clean and tidy, spread a thick layer of compost, bark chips or well-rotted manure. Don't worry about digging it in - let the worms do the hard work for you.

Clean up fruit trees

After leaf-fall, take the time to open up the centre of your deciduous fruit trees by pruning. New growth needs attention so the tree gets good airflow for the following fruit season, and to help avoid fungal disease. You can also spray naked branches with liquid copper or lime sulphate to further combat disease.

Cover your fish pond with netting

Decomposing leaves wreck your pond water and block filters on pumps. Save time and effort later, by catching falling leaves before they hit your pond. Spread a fine meshed net across the pond and pin it down with bricks. Remove any leaves that fall onto it and add them to your compost.

Mulch everything

Mulch is the gardener's best friend. Place it on all your garden beds to take advantage of winter rainfall and to make sure the surface roots of your plants feel cosy in the wintry weather.

Mulching also improves soil structure and helps retain moisture for the months ahead.

Lay down a 10cm thick layer of mulch over the soil around your plants, which will last about 12 months. You can even put down a layer of newspaper first to reduce evaporation and lock in the moisture.

Remember, if you plant seeds you can't mulch until they've established themselves.

Service your garden tools and hang them up

Clean and shiny and hanging tidily is what is called for here, especially for garden tools like spades, forks and shears. Give them a good wash and let dry thoroughly in the sun. Secateurs and shears also need sharpening.

Oil metal parts on tools to prevent rust, and rub wooden handles with linseed oil.