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Mulch ado about nothing: Now is the time to prepare your veg garden for the winter ahead

© Shutterstock / sophiecatKale plant protected by netting
Kale plant protected by netting

Rosa rugosa is a shrubby rose with a great scent and papery white or pink flowers, but what’s best about it are the hips that appear in early autumn, each one like a shiny red bauble, and which hang on the stems for several months.

As the weather gets colder, hungry pigeons will seek out food in the vegetable garden, which can spell disaster for brassicas, so cover these with netting now before they are shredded.

At the same time dig up any potatoes still in the ground to prevent them being ruined by slugs and pick autumn raspberries as they ripen before these get eaten by birds.

There is still plenty of food around for wildlife at the moment, so there’s no need for your crops to be on their menu and you can help to deter them further by clearing away any spent growth as this will otherwise act as a lure for molluscs.

Check under pots and down the sides of raised beds as this is where these voracious creatures like to hide. As the vegetable patch gets cleared its time to think about adding mulch. A thick layer of organic matter, whether that’s compost or well-rotted manure, will help break up heavy soils and improve the moisture-retentiveness of sand. You don’t even need to dig it in, simply remove all weeds, spread the mulch thickly and then stand back and let the worms do the work of incorporating it underground.

On plots where mulching is an annual practice, soil becomes rich in nutrients and develops the crumbly texture that plants love. It doesn’t happen overnight, but over time it does work to provide the perfect growing conditions for veg and fruit.

Meanwhile as tomatoes finish ripening, set about getting the greenhouse ready for winter. Empty it, then sweep and scrub every corner.

The aim is to get rid of any pests lurking in the cracks and to wipe away fungal spores so that they can’t overwinter. Do this on a dry day and leave doors and vents open so the greenhouse dries thoroughly. Do the same with cold frames and cloches.

And there’s still time to apply a layer of wood stain or paint to raised beds, sheds and fences to protect them from winter damage.

There are lots of colours to choose aside from brown, so why not brighten up the veg patch with some cheerful shades or, for some contemporary style, paint everything matt black? At the same time seal leaking shed roofs before the cold weather sets in.