With the change in weather (and colour of the leaves) comes a good reminder to tidy up from the season just gone. Check out these tips to help you clear away summer’s paraphernalia (children’s toys, grown-up gadgets, broken pots…) and complete projects not quite finished.
Pack up the summer kitchen
Unless you and your friends are very hardy, the weather for outdoor dining is now at its end. So it’s time to clean your barbecue, fire pit or chiminea, plus all your garden party accessories. It’s a good idea to keep summertime items separate from your day-to-day kitchen gear. Invest in a large enough plastic box that will keep them clean and dry, and store them now before the weather turns and you find them rusting outside in the spring. Be sure to cover and secure any permanent fixtures in preparation for the inevitable wind and rain (see point three for more).
Tidy children’s toys
As a general rule, it’s great to adopt the practice of toy rotation for your children, as it reduces the number of items available and helps them to focus on the toys they have to hand. Allocate boxes for both summer and autumn/winter garden toys, and swap them over at the beginning of each season.
Keep the toys that are in use in buckets outside to avoid any mud or sand coming into the house.
Protect patio furniture
If you love to lounge even in the cooler months, it’s likely you’ll have your blanket out already. If you prefer to be cosy inside, then it’s a wise move to get your patio chairs (and table) either inside or securely covered for the winter ahead. It’s important not to leave furniture outside unprotected, as this is a surefire way to deplete the lifespan of your pieces.
You can also take this opportunity to have a garden furniture audit. Be realistic about how much furniture you actually need. If you seem to have acquired a little too much, think about giving some away. If some of the wooden furniture is looking tired, then you may want to spend a weekend sanding and painting the wood to protect it rather than waiting until spring.
Wash your watering gear
Whether you’re a watering fanatic or slightly less committed to keeping your plants hydrated, chances are you have a hosepipe, watering cans and perhaps a water butt, too.
Start by removing anything that’s broken, then take some time to wash out and disinfect your water butt in preparation for it getting nice and full over the winter. Clean your hosepipe and any attachments, and find a dry spot inside the shed for them, along with your just-washed watering cans. Alternatively, wrap up the hosepipe and attachments in a plastic sheet to protect them from frost and grime over the winter.
Bin broken pots
Broken pots and general patio clutter can build up unnoticed over the summer and both provide great places for slugs to lurk, which should be a good incentive to throw out all these bits and bobs!
If you have too many plastic plant pots, you can recycle these by giving them away to other gardeners – they’re quite in demand. Offer them for free on sites like Freecycle or drop them into your local garden centre, providing it offers this service.
Take a little break from your tidying to think about whether or not you need to invest in any more outdoor waterproof storage for tools and toys that perhaps don’t have an obvious home already.
As you’re starting to pack things away, you might want to also investigate what you haven’t had out this summer. If there are items that you haven’t used this year, again consider donating or disposing of them so they’re not taking up space.
Care for your tools
Garden tools will hugely benefit from a little bit of TLC before hibernating for all or some of the winter. Give each one a thorough clean and dry before you pop them away, and many will serve you better next year after they’ve been sharpened or oiled. There’s lots of advice online for what to do with specific tools.
Assess what’s lurking at the back of your shed, as it’s easy to accumulate fancy gadgets that end up unused. Think about selling or giving these away so they can be useful in another garden next year.
Look after your bike
The humble bicycle is a sturdy beast and will tolerate the odd summer shower if left outside. However, you’ll get along much better if you can find a nice dry (and secure) place to store your bike, especially over the winter.
You’re also much more likely to use your bike if it’s easy to access and put away. There are a multitude of options – from a low storage shed like the one here to wall mounts for your existing outhouse, which can be a great space-saving option. Visit your local bike shop for advice on the best way to store your two-wheeled transport in the space you have available.
Put an end to those odd jobs
Do you still have a few incomplete outdoor DIY projects to finish? Get your diary out and schedule some time in the next couple of weeks to tackle these tasks. That way you can stash all the tools and materials away in time for the winter.
Get organised both inside and out with these tips for an autumn blitz
Feed the birds
Providing food for birds year-round is a wonderful way to encourage them into your garden and to provide them with a secure source of food, especially over the winter months.
Over the summer, birds will feed less from feeders and food can start to go off in the heat, so now is the time to throw away old food and give your feeders a thorough clean. Once they’ve been disinfected, leave them to dry and put them back out with some fresh food inside.