Get your garden ready for winter | Alys Fowler

Our gardening expert lists the crucial tasks, from cutting back to keeping birds happy – and you’re just in time to plant garlic

Tough stems that have dried standing upright will survive much of the cold season (their bleached seed heads are one of the joys of a winter garden), but if a perennial starts to slime and rot after the first kiss of a frost, you might as well whip it away to the compost. Many perennials don’t like the crown (where the stem joins the root) to be covered with rotting material in winter, particularly with wet matter such as mats of autumn leaves, as this can cause rot to travel into the roots and kill the plant. If you don’t want to remove this organic matter because you would rather the worms do the work, gently brush to the side any material sitting on top of the plant. The downside of this method is that rotting material is slug heaven. If you have anything nearby to protect, such as winter vegetables, you are better off removing this material to the compost and replacing it with well-rotted stuff.

Related: Alys Fowler’s gardening column: how to grow peas over winter


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