As the days shorten and the mists of autumn bejewel, like a vajazzled pole dancer’s pubis, all of the webs that will keep your arachnophobic spouse out of the garden until well after the first frost, now is the time to batten down the garden hatches in preparation for Winter…
First step is to open the shed door which may well have swollen with the summer’s humidity or possibly remains nailed-up from last year. To open the lock you will probably require the spade, which is in the shed with most of the good half of its handle. If you are fortunate enough to have a garage, you may well find something in there with which to a) prise the door open, b) smash the window and c) stem the bleeding. Once inside the shed you will discover that everything non-metallic has been turned into organic mulch by mice, mould and insects. Do not be tempted to spread this on your garden: nobody wants a visit from the Environmental Health Department. Rescue all that you can and burn the rest with the tubers that you forgot to plant last year and the fence panels you forgot to repair after the last storm. Do not eat the mushrooms that are growing out of the Weed & Feed box.
Prepare the water-feature for winter either by carefully dismantling, draining and disconnecting from the electricity supply or, alternatively, by covering with a large cardboard box and pretending that the delivery man has dropped it.
Strip the greenhouse of all the plants that have spent the summer gently decomposing and squeeze in as much of the garden furniture as rust allows. Maximising space in the greenhouse invariably involves a small amount of breakage. Don’t worry. Black bin bags work just as well as glass and can be replaced with clear plastic bags, cardboard and gaffer tape in the summer after the previous year’s furniture has been removed and left out for the totters. Do not be concerned if the greenhouse door does not close at this stage: it can be held back with a brick or plant pot for now, and it will almost certainly be much easier after the first storm of winter has smashed all the glass out of it. Agricultural glass is inexpensive and can be bought, cut to measure to exactly the wrong size from most glass suppliers. Order plenty because whatever does not get broken on the journey home will get smashed by the titchy little springs that are supposed to keep it in the frame. Remember that, although blood is a good soil enricher, it is not a good idea to shed too much. Nobody wants a dizzy spell in a greenhouse – even if it is 90% plastic bag.
If the step ladder is easily accessible in the shed and the rungs have not yet been eaten away by whatever-it-is that has had the floor, now is a good time to clean out the house gutters. Most detritus can be removed by tying together a number of garden canes and sliding them along the gutter until they break. Do not worry if joints are dislodged and seals are removed, in my experience, modern guttering is not designed to be waterproof. Be careful when attempting to remove tennis balls – nobody knows how they get in there – because if they fall into the downpipe they will almost certainly cause a blockage that can only be cleared by wrenching the whole thing off the wall and throwing it behind the shed. Dead birds will eventually rot down. Cats may take longer.
Your house and garden should now be ready for winter and you will have just one more task to do in preparation for the dark months ahead. Sort your garden tools into three piles: 1. metal bits (easily identified by the presence of rust), 2. broken-off wooden bits (easily identified by the presence of woodworm and dry rot) and, 3. lethal electrical bits (easily identified by the presence of frayed cables and shattered blades), before loading them all into a wheelbarrow and dumping them into somebody else’s skip in the dead of night. If your wheelbarrow has developed a squeak this is a good sign, unless it does not have a wheel, in which case it is a bad sign and time to get your hips checked.
Should your shed door refuse to lock, nail it up securely once more. Do not worry if someone attempts to steal the contents of your shed, it will almost certainly be for a bet and not for profit.
You will be able to buy next-door’s stolen garden tools at a carboot sale in the Spring.