Apply an autumn mulch to protect plants that are borderline hardy such as Agapanthus, Kniphofia and Phygelius. The plants’ own leaves, e.g. Kniphofia, can be tied up and used as protection for the crowns underneath.
Wet September and October weather will have made many clay soils unworkable until spring. In these cases mulching will help to improve and maintain soil structure.
Make sure that you have not forgotten any of your tender plants and bulbs – they need to be brought inside or into a heated greenhouse over the winter. Protect alpines from the wet if you have not done so already.
Hellebores rarely flower naturally by Christmas despite their common name of Christmas rose. They can be encouraged to flower a little earlier by covering them with cloches, potting them up and bringing them into a warm greenhouse, or placing them on a windowsill inside the house.
Large tubs that are at risk of cracking in the frost should be covered with bubble wrap, hessian or fleece to insulate them over the winter.
Raise patio containers onto feet or bricks to avoid them sitting in the winter wet.
Remove stakes and other supports as final late-flowering herbaceous plants die down for the winter.
Tidy up leaves from around borders. They can be added to the compost heap or placed in separate bins to make leafmould. Some leaves such as plane and sycamore are slow to break down and can delay you using your compost if you mix them into the general heap. Leafmould makes an excellent soil improver and can also be used as a seed-sowing medium.
Dig new flower beds as the weather allows. Don’t work on them when it’s very wet as walking on sodden soil can cause compaction.
In mild weather weeds will still appear. Hoe regularly to keep them in check.
Now can be a good time to dig up perennial weeds with long tap roots such as dandelions and mallow from newly cultivated areas. Clay soils in particular can be more workable in autumn as they are no longer baked hard but not yet sodden and sticky with winter wet. Mulching will help to improve the soil structure.