They say that Winter officially began on 21st December this year. I don’t know about you, but it has felt like winter for a while now for me. It’s dark at 4pm, we’re de-icing the cars in the mornings and the winter coats are well and truly out.
Perhaps it feels like winter came around quick because our summers of fun were cut short by the pandemic, or perhaps we’re all just hurtling towards Christmas in the hope that it will bring some much-needed joy to the bizarre year that we’ve all had.
Whatever the reason, there’s no escaping it, and while winter can often feel like a gloomy time in the garden, there is so much to be getting on with in preparation for spring. We like to treat it as a time to protect, plan, tidy and take stock. So, lets utilise the weekends at home and get in the garden.
Assuming you’ve already lifted your tender plants, applied your mulch where necessary, dead-headed your autumn flowering plants, pruned your summer flowering friends, and planted your bulbs, here’s a little list of the things we suggest doing through December and January.
Let’s start with screwing our heads back on. Like us, I bet many of you spent a hell of lot more time in the garden this year, so your tools probably saw a lot of use. This is the perfect time of year to get everything nice and clean, have a good clear out, tighten loose handles, sharpen blunt edges, and work out what might be missing in your collection.
Christmas is around the corner so if you need something new, now is the time to say. Oh, and don’t forget to thoroughly clean the greenhouse! Use a horticultural disinfectant and wash the floor, the glass, and any staging to irradicate any disease or pests.
If we are lucky enough to get any snow, don’t let it sit on the greenhouse roof because the glass will get damaged.
If you’re desperate to get your hands dirty and plant something, we suggest raspberries and blackberries. November-March is their dormant season, so they are actually best planted around November/December time, so long as the soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged.
Maintenance is key! There are plants that really benefit from a good old winter prune. Wisteria, Roses, fruit trees, deciduous ornamental trees, deciduous shrubs, and a few others all need it, so do your research on your plants and make sure you’re giving them the trim they need.
Lots of plants need a touch of TLC in winter and this often means moving or covering so make sure you know your stuff. We tend to group potted plants together in a sheltered part of the garden because it helps to protect root systems from frost damage.
We also suggest you stay off of your lawn as much as possible to avoid damage, spike it with a fork from time to time to help with drainage, and continuously clear any leaves away to ensure it still gets lots of light and prevent dead patches from appearing.
The last thing we strongly suggest is watching out for frozen ponds, not in case you slip and fall, but to protect the fish! Toxic gases can build up when ponds are frozen, which kills fish and frogs.
If your pond is frozen, all you need to do take a saucepan full of hot water over the ice to create a hole. Never use force or boiling water because then you’ll be the one harming the fish! You might not catch a glimpse of as much wildlife in the winter but trust us its out there, and it needs you more than ever right now!
Our little friends are often very vulnerable due to the extreme weather conditions and lack of food. Be sure to fill your bird feeders and top up your bird bath regularly. You’d be surprised what can go in the feeders; try adding cooked pasta or rice, cheese, boiled potatoes, soft fruits, and even uncooked, unsalted bacon rind.
You don’t need to go to a feed shop and spend a bomb, you can use things like this that you’d usually throw away! Badgers are in need at this time of year too. They don’t hibernate but they do sleep through long periods of cold weather and could really do with a little bit of help to find food. We suggest leaving small amounts of lightly cooked meat, unsalted peanuts, and seasonal fruits. Similarly, squirrels would really love to be left a few hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, beans, or carrots (chopped up course).
There are always little jobs to do on a dreary Sunday. If you don’t fancy leaving the sofa, get planning your 2021 garden but if you do want to get out there, you could give any paths a good scrub with a patio cleaner, turn your compost heaps to ensure they’re all mixed and decomposing nicely, make a pile of logs in a quiet corner to create a little wildlife shelter and last but certainly not least, collect all sorts of foliage and berries to bring inside for Christmas décor!
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