Fighting climate change entails protecting our planet by reducing fossil fuel emissions and the resulting damage to biodiversity. How we put the garden to bed just now can even strike a blow. Over the next 2 weeks, I’ll look at the general tidy up and how to manage meadow areas in the garden.

Left to its own devices the garden would become a tangly mess and you do need to remove annuals and cut back most spring and early summer perennials, but not all at once. Last autumn I saw an elephant hawkmoth caterpillar lurking in a weedy patch behind a gooseberry bush and was delighted to see the beautiful adult this spring.

Our methods greatly affect the balance between carbon release and carbon storage. Fortunately, burning garden rubbish, thereby emitting carbon into the atmosphere, is generally banned nowadays. And there are much better disposal methods anyway.

Composting green waste is best. Material gradually breaks down and much of the carbon is then incorporated into the soil. It stays there unless the ground is dug over.

Woodier waste rots down much more slowly, possibly taking years, but shredding speeds up the process. The resulting woodchip can either be composted, adding brown material in the compost bin to balance green, sappier stuff. Alternatively, use this woodchip for mulching and, again, the carbon is gradually absorbed by the soil.

As well as helping to store carbon, composting and shredding protect and preserve the garden’s biodiversity. Just as garden hedges help mitigate some of the worst effects of climate change, composting and shredding autumn waste help reduce the terrifying decline in the planet’s biodiversity.

There are more living organisms in the compost heap than anywhere else in the garden and by enriching soil with finished compost we add life and diversity to the ground. Living soil is the base for all other plants and creatures in the garden.

As I’ve said many times before, mulching protects ssoil and prevents erosion. So try to avoid bare spaces and in the veg garden cover after clearing away summer crops. As well as shreddings, leaf litter and other organic materials as well as different biodegradable covers, like sheep wool, hemp or jute can be used. Anything but plastic.

The wildlife that shares our gardens needs food and shelter throughout the year and we should remember this during autumn clearing. Most parts of the garden can offer something so leave some tangly bits and don’t turn the garden into a desert, undoing all the good of a thriving summer garden. Hibernating insects need somewhere undisturbed, so cut back vegetation only as necessary. I go over a bed 2 or 3 times which is obviously more time-consuming, but what’s wrong with that?

Inevitably we have woody branches too large for the shredder and prickly rose and other prunings, which we wouldn’t compost.

One solution is to make a dead hedge, whatever size and shape you want. Define the space by driving in stout poles 45-60 cm apart, and ideally, weave pliable stems such as willow, clematis or cornus, between the uprights. This can even make the hedge attractive.

When cutting back perennials, leave several centimetres of stem to help protect roots against severe weather. Hollow stems, like fennel, make good hide-aways, but those pointing straight up fill with water that could rot the crown so cut them right back. But leave at least 10cm on angled stems, they’ll offer safe shelter.

Seeds are invaluable to birds and may even slightly reduce the bird feed bill. So where possible, don’t remove seed heads till they rot or collapse on neighbouring vegetation. Some grasses and umbellifers are attractive for us as well.

Plant of the week

Anemone huphensis ‘Hadspen Abundance’ has deep pink flowers that enliven a border even when the skies are grey. Best grown in semi shade as Japanese anemones prefer consistently moist soil.