Despite having the driest September for years, October is proving to be a wet month so far but autumn isn’t the time to put your feet up. Although the garden is getting ready for winter, now is your chance to get on with all the essential maintenance jobs. Do them now, well before the weather really turns, and next spring you’ll be glad you did.
Gutters, downpipes and drains
Leaks can cause damage to your property, so while the autumn leaves are falling keep clearing your gutters to prevent them blocking, even on your outbuildings. There are wire covers on the market that fit over the top of downpipes to keep them clear or long lengths of gutter brush that prevent the leaves landing in the first place. If you have a downpipe that flows into an open-style drain, keep the grating clear of leaves to avoid it flooding.
Now is a good time to empty water butts and thoroughly clean them out. Scrub the inside to remove any algae, then it is a good idea to rinse out with greenhouse disinfectant followed by plain water. If you do this now, there will be lots of time for rainwater to refill them before they are needed next season.
Usually water butts are bought with a lid, but make sure they are covered to keep the stored water clean, prevent debris gathering or algae growing.
Sheds, fences and decking
Check the roofing felt on top of shed and outdoor stores. If necessary, use pressure-treated timber battens to fix down loose edges, or if the felt is torn and no longer waterproof it will need to be completely replaced. On a dry weekend, paint all exposed timber on sheds, fences and decking with a suitable wood-preservative product of which there are many available on the market.
Light plastic furniture is prone to discolour from long-term exposure to the sun or it can be stained by algae if left outside. If it can’t be stored anywhere inside, stack the chairs and cover them and any tables with a tarpaulin or heavy-duty plastic sheet, tied down securely so it can’t blow away in the autumn and winter wind.
Hardwood furniture will keep its colour if treated now with a suitable product that would have been recommended by the manufacturer when it was bought.
Cast aluminium tables and chairs lose their top layer of paint in time, and the various patterns on the ironwork collect dirt and algae, so they can soon look worse for wear after a few seasons outside. Clean them using a stiff, wire brush, and an old toothbrush can be used for the fiddly nooks and crannies. Wash down well with warm soapy water and when dry, re-spray with an aerosol paint intended for outdoor use on metalwork. Two coats of paint will give the best coverage. Spraying is best done in a dry shed or garage with old newspaper laid down to protect the area and don’t return the furniture to the outside until it is thoroughly dry.
Resin furniture has become very popular as it can be left outside all year round, but its rattan-style texture can trap dirt and algae so it’s best to keep it covered up over winter. Wash it down with warm soapy water and a soft brush before it is next used, hopefully that will be during a warm spring next year!