Garden tools for autumn and winter

Autumn is the time of year to think about cleaning and maintenance. To help with this, we have listed a number of tasks and tools to use. This is not an exhaustative list but includes some hints and tips to get you started.

Greenhouse, gardening & all-purpose cleaner

Greenhouse, gardening & all-purpose cleaner

Greenhouse: The greenhouse is an important part of your autumn/winter plans. If you don’t already have one, now is the time to invest. If you are lucky enough, then it is time to have a cleanup. When most of your plants have died back, it is the perfect time to give the greenhouse a sweep. This removes any unwanted old compost, and decayed plant matter, making sure you keep those garden pests, such as wood lice, at bay. Get a good broom, and strong handle, lift all the old pots and containers off the floor, and sweep around. Give the floor and windows a good clean with a strong cleaning agent or disinfectant. This will rid your greenhouse of anything unwanted from the previous season. If you have completely cleared out the greenhouse, you could even use a pressure washer. When the greenhouse is empty, put in some insulation to keep everything warm over the autumn and winter seasons. If you have pots lying around, give them a wash and any old and broken pots can be used for drainage in new pots. For a treat, why not add a potting bench or bench tidy to the greenhouse for when you start sowing seeds.

Potting bench & bench tidy

Potting bench & bench tidy

Tidy Borders: Prune any late-flowering shrubs, or climbing roses, unless they are repeat flowerers, then prune when finished. Either sharpen secateurs and pruning shears, or invest in new, they perform better the sharper they are. After tidying borders, add well rotted manure to add nutrients to the ground, spent mushroom compost to insulate plant roots. Add a mulch with bark chips to suppress weeds during winter and the coming season. Clear overhanging plants from pathways to maintain access routes. Make time to trim evergreen hedges before winter sets in completely. This will keep them neat and tidy through the season. You could even install solar lighting to see your garden in the dark evenings.

Lawn mower & garden fork

Lawn mower & garden fork

Lawn Maintenance: Initially invest in a suitable lawn mower for your garden. Mow any long grass, ensuring you raise the height of the mower blades as grass growth is slowing down at this time of year. Try aerating your lawn with a garden fork, as this helps to improve drainage and aeration. Remove any thatch from the surface with a garden rake, and repair dead patches with grass seed. Use a lawn scarifier if you have a large area to cover. In January, try adding lawn edging to create a neat and tidy appearance, making maintenance easier during the coming months.

Secateurs & solar lighting

Secateurs & solar lighting

Compost bin: In preparation for all the fallen leaves and dead plant material to come over the coming months, buy a compost bin. Autumn leaves are a good addition to compost bins and ideal for leaf mould. However don’t compost rose leaves in case they have diseases such as black spot. If you are adding woody pruning to compost bins, shred or chop it first as they are slow to decompose.

Pond wizard & netting for brassicas

Pond wizard & netting for brassicas

Fish and Bird Care: It is a good idea to add netting to your ponds to prevent leaves from falling in. Clean pond weed, and lay it out next to the pond for a couple of days to allow the wildlife to get back into the water. Add a bird bath, keeping it topped up with fresh water all through autumn and winter. Consider adding a bird feeder in the garden, keeping it topped up with bird seed and fat balls. Birds are real friends to the gardener keeping pest numbers down.

We hope these hints and tips help you to get your autumn and winter gardening underway. For more ideas, visit our What To Do In The Garden This Month, or our Top 10 Winter Tips.

Wendie Alexander
I have worked for Thompson & Morgan for nearly four years. In that time I have learnt lots about gardening, but consider myself very much a novice. I have started growing veg on a colleague’s allotment and also growing windowsill seeds such as Salad Leaves and Rocket. I love gaining more knowledge about horticulture and am lucky enough to work here.

Fruits of my harvest

Hello Gardeners,

I hope you have had a wonderful summer and are enjoying the fruits of your harvest. I have had the most successful year ever thanks to the reliable and strong seeds from Thompson & Morgan. I wish I had thought to count how many Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’ seeds we had. We had such a glut we were giving them to friends, neighbours, family and hospital staff. My mum has made me pasta sauce and tomato soup on a regular basis and my brother took some to make me a chutney although I have yet to see it!

Unfortunately, I can’t take the credit for looking after the watering and feeding of the plants as I haven’t been well enough It’s thanks to Mark and mum that the greenhouses have been kept going. The only thing I did was prune the tomato vines down to five foot, pinch out the side shoots and cut off the lower leaves as the fruits were forming.

My Uncle Vince who lives in Solva says he’s had the worst tomato crop ever. He thinks they’ve not had enough sun and they have been affected by blight. My Tomato ‘Magic Mountain’ have certainly lived up to the claim that they are blight resistant as so far there is no disease in our greenhouse and the weather is unpredictable at the moment.

Huge haul of tomatoes & delicious pasta sauce

Huge haul of tomatoes & delicious pasta sauce

Blogger Jean Willis who grows wonderful petunia displays sent me a few packets of seeds, the chillies didn’t take, they germinated well but a sudden hike in temperature when I was in hospital meant they were put under stress as they were on the hottest shelf in the greenhouse, all day. When they were watered intermittently at dusk the compost had dried out far too much,and they couldn’t recover. Mark had so much to do in the mornings I had to occasionally remind him by text to open the greenhouse doors and windows and damp down the floor. However, the Pepper ‘Sweet Bonita’ has been the best plant I have ever grown! They have even beaten the plug plants that I usually buy in terms of numbers of fruit, taste and size. Again I’m not sure if this is down to Mark looking after them, or that I have set the greenhouse planting up better than last year, by choosing the side closest to the house for the tomato vines so the heavy leaves and vigorous growth don’t shade out the sun for the slower and lower growing crops.

After carefully growing aubergines for my other brother, who still hasn’t managed to build his greenhouse (2nd year of having it) I ended up with too many plants, and I used up the last of my precious seeds. I gave a plant each to my auntie and mum, but both of them say that there are no fruits on theirs. Mum’s is outdoors as she does not have a greenhouse, and my Auntie Mary’s aubergine is in a pot in the greenhouse, but comes out to sit on the path in the day. Mum lives three miles away from me, and my auntie lives twenty odd miles away from me. I think it may be because the Enorma seeds tend to do better undercover.

Aubergine plant

Aubergine plant

I bought some cucamelons and they cropped really well, but due to having excess aubergine plants I could only grow them in a pot with a string frame in the greenhouse. They would have been better in the borders with a strong mesh support, however they did grow and fruit really well. It’s not something I will grow again though as I wasn’t keen on the taste, although it was funny watching people’s faces as they bit into the fruits and decided on what they tasted like or whether they liked them or not. Surprisingly it was my oldest niece Ffion who loved them. She even asked if she could take some home for her lunch box, I told her to take as many as she liked. This then led to her sisters Hattie and Gracie asking very sweetly if they could take some peppers, tomatoes and aubergines home to make a fruity rice dish for tea. I am glad I had more than enough for them to go home with.

This is the time of the year when I would be planning my winter crops, things like cauliflower, broccoli, onions turnip, spinach and Christmas Potatoes. I would be sowing seeds, sifting compost, and keeping an eye for spaces in the greenhouses to pop the plants into. However, the way it’s going I will still be eating summer fruits in the winter. The aubergines are still fruiting, as are the peppers and cucamelons, although I think the tomatoes will be finished by the end of the month. I also have been now banned from working with compost, and am not allowed into the greenhouses or garden without gloves on as I have started Chemotherapy. My treatment is weekly and for a possibility of eighteen weeks, with an operation after, so all I can do at the moment is delegate tasks to mum and Mark.

Just because I am having this treatment doesn’t mean that my gardening life has stopped, it’s just changed down a gear. For my birthday Mark bought me some Primula Vialii plug plants and they have been transplanted into individual three inch pots to overwinter on the shelves. These are in the small greenhouse along with three aubergines in pots, a massive begonia which is in the aloe borders. A squash plant is also in the small greenhouse, that I thought wouldn’t make it and the money tree which has put on loads of growth through the summer.



The big greenhouse has the tomato plants, aubergines, peppers, cucamelons and the basils. I also seem to
have a woodlice invasion too! But it’s my fault they are there as I didn’t tell Mark and mum to pick up all the dead material from the borders. Yesterday I had poor mum picking up the odd split tomato, dead leaves, spent trusses and random snails all in order to keep the greenhouse as clean as possible to help prevent diseases forming. I don’t mind the woodlice, but I occasionally heard a startled squeak from mum when she uncovered them under a leaf. I have stopped using slug pellets in the greenhouses as the plants are strong enough to cope with the irregular munch. I felt quite empowered saying snip this, cut that, compost that bit. Poor mum, but I did pay her in fresh raspberries and apples from the garden, and another tub of tomatoes.

Another great garden haul

Another great garden haul

The strangest thing to happen since I’ve being diagnosed with Cancer is that I’ve met some wonderful Thompson & Morgan customers in the three hospitals I have been in, and one of them a lovely lady called Lynne said she always reads my blogs. I was really shocked at this, because I only ever expect family or friends to read them I did say I still am as surprised as anyone else when things grow, as I’m still learning how to garden. I also had good advice from another great lady called Sally-Anne (aka Purple Pip) who insisted I get out in the fresh air as much as possible. I’ve made friends for life with Hazel, Kelly and Monica, and the support from Bloggers Geoff, Caroline and Jean has been incredible.

I am really hoping that I will have something to blog about in the next month or two if not I might just do a short winter blog, if not I will just have to rely on Geoff, Caroline, Jean and all of the other writers for my gardening fix.

Until next time, Take care, and Happy Gardening,

Love Amanda.

My name is Amanda and I live in Pembrokeshire with my fiancé and our garden is approximately 116 meters square. I want to share with you my love for gardening and the reasons behind it, from the good to the bad and ugly. I want to do this for my own personal pleasure. If you would like to take the journey with me then please read my blogs and share with me your gardening stories.

Resistance and susceptibility

As this is my first blog, ever, I thought I would start by reflecting a little on where our gardening world has been going since the Second World War and, of course, where we are on the journey now!

Immediately after the war our successive Governments, of a variety of political persuasions, encouraged farmers and growers to maximise the cropping potential of every acre of land they could make productive. This move, in turn, caused what became known as the chemical treadmill. Where we applied stronger and stronger chemical products to kill off pests, diseases and weeds; that dared to attack our ever increasing acreages of crops. By the time we reached the 1970’s we had food mountains and wine lakes and had, without realising it, started to kill off wild flowers, insects, birds and wild animals in numbers that are now causing us serious concern.


Meadowland Mixture and Wildflower 'Honey Bee Mixed'

Meadowland Mixture and Wildflower ‘Honey Bee Mixed’


When Rachel Carson wrote ‘The Silent Spring’ in 1962 few people listened to her concerns about the excessive use of chemical pesticides across the developed and developing world. When Dr. Chris Baines got the BBC to make the film ‘Bluetits and Bumblebees’ in the early 1980’s we all watched it but did not pick up the message. The Henry Doubleday Research Association (now Garden Organic), started in 1954 by Lawrence Hills has been encouraging amateur and professional growers to steer away from inorganic pesticides for over 60 years but who has been listening?

Now that scientific evidence and advanced knowledge of the damage that we have done to our planet over the last 60 + years has come into the public’s view, our Seed companies, breeders, researchers, nurseries and growers are seeing the potential market in offering us new strains of old favourites that require less and less pesticide attention.


Tomato 'Mountain Magic' and Carrot 'Flyaway' F1 Hybrid

Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’ and Carrot ‘Flyaway’ F1 Hybrid


Scanning through the first eleven pages of Thompson and Morgan’s 2016 Seed Catalogue, I have found five cultivars of popular vegetables that have known resistance to one problem or another. Tomato ‘Mountain Magic’ F1 is resistant to early and late blight; Carrot ‘Flyaway’ F1 is resistant to carrot root fly; Parsnip ‘Gladiator’F1 is resistant to Parsnip canker; Cucumber ‘Bella’ F1 and Courgette ‘Defender’ F1 are both resistant to powdery mildew.


Parsnip 'Gladiator' F1 Hybrid and Cucumber 'Bella' F1 Hybrid

Parsnip ‘Gladiator’ F1 Hybrid and Cucumber ‘Bella’ F1 Hybrid


Maybe someone will find strains of Impatiens and Aquilegias that are not devastated by Downy mildew in the future and Ash trees that are resistant to Ash dieback.


Busy Lizzy 'Divine Mixed' and Aquilegia 'Swan Mixed'

Busy Lizzy ‘Divine Mixed’ and Aquilegia ‘Swan Mixed’


This is all fantastic work on the part of breeders and growers and I feel sure that the list will get longer over the years as the pesticides gradually disappear from our Garden Centre shelves and pests and diseases become more resistant to them.

This cultural method of reducing the impact of pests and diseases should now be at the forefront in our battle with Mother Nature and, if we use physical barriers to help prevent attacks alongside the occasional use of biological control methods, we should be able to stop the use inorganic pesticides altogether.

Graham Porter.

Graham Porter
I have worked in horticulture for the past 49 years and have become more involved with and concerned about the environmental impact that our profession has had on the world. I am married with 2 grown up children and 4 wonderful grandchildren. I am currently writing my first book that reflects my thoughts on gardening / horticulture in an environmentally friendly manner.

Ground cover plants

Ground cover plants are useful in the garden for covering bare patches of soil beneath trees or shrubs or for covering steep banks where access is difficult. Their roots also help to stabilise soil on steep slopes. Ground cover plants brighten up otherwise dull areas and will suppress weeds, making them ideal for a low-maintenance garden. We’ve put together a list of some of the best ground cover plants, which are fast-growing and make an effective dense covering.

Ground cover plants for shade

From foliage to flowers there are plenty of colourful ground cover plants to light up a shady spot in your garden. Even vigorous plants may grow more slowly in heavier shade so don’t be too concerned if they are taking their time to spread. You may need to be more vigilant in weeding whilst these plants become established as the soil will be bare for some time. Once they do establish however, they will form an impenetrable mat.

Bbergenia 'Dragonfly Sakura'

Bergenia ‘Dragonfly Sakura’

Bergenia ‘Dragonfly Sakura’ is a hardy evergreen ground cover plant with incredible winter colour! The pretty blooms provide invaluable food for pollinating insects early in the year, and make dainty cut flowers too.  Plant Elephant’s Ears in any well-drained soil in sun or dappled shade.

Heuchera 'Patchwork'

Heuchera ‘Patchwork’

Heuchera ‘Patchwork’ Mix are prized for their colourful leaves, these versatile semi-evergreen perennials make excellent drifts of ground cover, adding a distinctive splash of colour to the front of borders, or even brightening winter containers.

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley is a scented ground cover plant. Each delicate arching stem carries a flurry of snow-white, bell shaped blooms with a powerful, timeless fragrance. Set against of a carpet of lush green foliage, the exquisite blooms of Convallaria majalis make a wonderful cut flower for scented, springtime posies.

Ground cover plants full sun

From annual to evergreen ground cover plants, there are plenty of options for a sunny spot in the garden. Plants growing in full sun benefit from mulching in their first year to help retain moisture at their roots. If the weather is very hot and dry make sure you water your new plants regularly to help them establish. It’s also essential to keep on top of weeds so there is no competition for nutrients and water.

Delosperma 'Hardy Mixed'

Delosperma ‘Hardy Mixed’

Delosperma ‘Hardy Mixed‘, Hardy ice plant, is fantastic for those hot, dry problem areas where   many other plants would fail to establish.

Lily 'Colour Carpet™ Mixture'

Lily ‘Colour Carpet™ Mixture’

Lily ‘Colour Carpet™ Mixture’ is the only ground cover Lily that will flower within 10 weeks. These short stemmed dwarf lilies are a ‘must have’ for creating vibrant ground cover in exotic gardens, or edging paths and borders.
For more information take a look at our ground cover plants guide.

Terri Overett
Terri works in the e-commerce marketing department assisting the busy web team. Terri manages our blog and social media pages here at Thompson & Morgan and is dedicated to providing useful advice to our gardeners. Terri is new to gardening and keen to develop her horticultural knowledge.

Pests and Disease

There is nothing more frustrating for a gardener than purchasing, growing and nurturing a plant for it to be destroyed by pests or disease. As gardeners we strive to protect our crops and this can be an enormous challenge especially when we have to try identify what has caused the damage. Even more frustrating, those shifty beasties are often hidden and not noticeable without a thorough search.

I have collated my top 5 tips to help you reduce the chance of infestation, and due to the overwhelming questions asked by our Facebook and Twitter followers, I will discuss the most common concerns which will hopefully solve your gardening concerns too.

Sometimes there is no right or single answer to getting rid of pest and diseases so these tips are intended to help reduce the risk of attack of any pest and disease in your garden;

  1. By covering your crops with fleece you will prevent pests from reaching your crops.
  2. Keep your eyes peeled for the earliest signs of attack and take action. Have a good look at your plants and if there is an infestation don’t let the problem get out of hand.
  3. Know your enemy. Certain pests and diseases are specific to a particular crop, so make sure you identify yourself with the most likely kind to attack your crops.
  4. By encouraging natural predators to your garden such as Ladybirds and Lacewings you will reduce pest and disease in your garden. They will happily munch their way through aphid colonies, preventing the spread around your garden.
  5. Be careful not to spread disease, many diseases can be prevented by practising good garden hygiene and keeping your garden well maintained.

Pests and diseases

Our facebookers and tweeters took to social media to ask their pesky queries; from slugs to mildew we had it all.  It soon became clear that our gardeners need help with preventing and eliminating pests and diseases to save their garden.

Slugs and snails are probably the most common pests that will attack your crops, and by the time you notice their damage they are often long gone. No wonder gardeners resort to throwing them over fences – which is another discussion we had on Horticultural etiquette! So, how do you prevent snails and slugs from attacking your crop? You can use beer traps, or apply sharp scratchy mulch such as gravel to deter them. For a more targeted approach try using Nemaslug, which is completely safe around children, all animals, birds and wildlife – except for slugs and snails.

Pests and diseases

Ants can also be a nuisance although they don’t directly damage your plants. They often set up farms of sap sucking aphids, from which they gather sugary honeydew. You can try applications of ant deterrent around their nests and watch to see where they move to. If you keep applying it wherever they move, then sooner or later they will find somewhere to live which will be less of an inconvenience to you. It is also well worth encouraging insectivorous birds to your garden who will help to keep the ant population down.

Pests and diseasesDiseases such as Powdery Mildew and Downy Mildew affect a wide range of plants. Many plants are now bred with Mildew resistance to help combat the disease. Good air circulation and watering

For more information view our full pests and diseases guide.

Terri Overett
Terri works in the e-commerce marketing department assisting the busy web team. Terri manages our blog and social media pages here at Thompson & Morgan and is dedicated to providing useful advice to our gardeners. Terri is new to gardening and keen to develop her horticultural knowledge.

Companion planting

Companion planting has been around for a long time and is a really good way of using Mother Nature to deter pests and improve pollination.

Companion planting


We’ve put together a Companion Planting Guide which you can find on the Thompson & Morgan website and use to help you plan your vegetable patch.

The guide, written by our horticultural experts, is full of great advice when it comes to growing your crops. For example, many of us grow vegetables in rows, known as ‘monoculture‘. However, pests generally have a favourite crop and this method helps them locate and infest it. Mixing plants up confuses the pests and you’re more likely to have a more successful harvest.

Intercropping is another way to make the most of the available space and is particularly useful when growing Brussels sprouts or parsnips which take a long time to grow. Sow the seeds and while you’re waiting for the them to germinate and grow, sow fast-growing vegetables like salad leaves and radishes and not only will you save a lot of space, you’ll be keeping weeds at bay – less weeding can only be a good thing!

Companion planting

Grow marigolds with tomatoes

Herbs are a great weapon against insects – their pungent scent deters them. Try growing basil, mint and chives near your tomato plants, as well as marigolds, to deter whitefly and aphids. Be cautious when growing mint though, it’s invasive and grows quickly, so it’s best in a container where you can, well, contain it!

Growing onions next to carrots benefits both crops – carrot fly is repelled by the smell of onions, and onion white fly is put off by the scent of the carrots.

Rebecca Tute
Rebecca works in the Marketing department as part of the busy web team, focusing on updating the UK news and blog pages and Thompson & Morgan’s international website. Rebecca enjoys gardening and learning about flowers and growing vegetables with her young daughter.

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