Never mind spring cleaning - autumn preparations are essential to protect your garden from the worst of winter. Use our top tips to guide you.

Autumn preparations: tidy up

I am still picking runner beans, and glad of suggestions for what to do with a glut. Within a week or two I will be sad they have ended. One school of thought suggests I leave my runner and climbing French bean plants in the ground until the frosts because until then they will go on fixing nitrogen in the soil - a good thing. Another school says TIDY UP as soon as the last bean is picked. Either way, autumn preparations will require you to cut the plants down, chop them up and put the choppings and roots firmly in your garden compost store.

The same goes for other veg. and flowering plants that are past their best. Even a late spell of sunshine now won't give you much pleasure, and it is so much nicer working in the garden in autumn sunshine than in winter rain.

Autumn preparations: dig and mulch

Where you tidied up veg. and other short lived plants, dig over the soil with a good fork to loosen it and pull out the weeds. Throw a good layer of well rotted garden compost where you have dug. It will rot more during autumn and winter, help stop the rain compacting the soil or washing it away. And you are ready to dig it in to plant veg. and flowers in the spring and early summer.

Friends living in areas of mild winter weather sow 'green manure' on bare winter soil to protect and feed it. Try it if your climate is suitable.

autumn preparations

Compost bins at Potterton's allotments, East Warwick, showing good lids to keep them warm. Robin Stott. Geograph 4050830. Reuse under Creative Commons licence.

Autumn preparations: keep it warm

Your compost store likes to be warm in winter (don't we all?). Firm the contents down well, and put a lid on it. Purpose-built compost stores usually have tight fitting lids that keep the warmth in to help the materials rot. If yours doesn’t have a lid make one from carpet, wood or sacks.

Plants you know are tender, or have been advised to protect from cold winds and damp, need to be prepared now for their winter coats. Cut off damaged leaves and any top heavy growth that won't look good next year, clear weeds and leaves from the bottom of the plant and leave a clean and drier base. Different plants like different wrappings so follow the instructions that came with your plant. Don't forget to tie the covering firmly or the wind will whip it off and damage the plant in the process.

autumn preparations

Tree fern in a winter coat, Kew gardens. David Hawgood. Geography 1088968. Creative Commons licence for reuse

Autumn preparations: keep it dry

Feet (or even bricks) under your lovely patio pots will keep plant roots out of water that will rot them or freeze the base of the pot.

Spread a little gravel around the base of Mediterranean plants, succulents and plants that love to be baked by the sun. It will stop muck and damp collecting there and rotting the stem or roots.

All preparations done? Time for a sit down and a coffee in a warm conservatory or orangery (see our blog to find out more!).