Winter can feel like a gloomy time in the garden. The flowers of high summer are a distant memory, the rain is here to stay and the change of the clocks has put paid to any hope of working in the evenings. However, there is still much to be done.
Keep the veg plot going
Crops to harvest in winter include parsnips (which taste better after a frost), kale, Brussels sprouts, leeks, winter cabbages and winter salad. If you didn’t get around to planting winter veg and salad earlier in the year, you can grow pulses indoors, as well as microgreens, ready in just a few days. You can also plant for future feasts – garlic, fruit bushes and raspberries and rhubarb can all be planted in winter.
If you want your Christmas tree to stay in tip top condition over the festive season, there are three simple rules to follow. First, buy a healthy tree from a local nursery; second, choose a spot for your tree that’s well away from any heat sources; and finally keep your tree properly hydrated. A medium-sized tree can easily get through two litres of water a day.
There’s no need to buy expensive rarities to create a cracking display of snowdrops. Galanthus nivalis is the snowdrop you’ll see growing wild in woods; it’s vigorous and quick to establish and usually flowers in February. They do best in moist, well-drained soil in partial shade. Plant them deep; the top of the bulb should be about 8cm below the surface. Water well and don’t remove spent foliage until it is completely withered. Nourish them in autumn and winter with a fertiliser. It will take several years before they settle in and develop into decent clumps. Propagate by lifting and dividing once the leaves have turned yellow.
Off with their heads!
As you prepare and prune your garden area for winter, sedums can be left unattended to. Sedums are hardy, tolerating frost and below freezing temperatures. Upright sedums will die back to the ground, but the remaining stalks with spent flowers will offer colour and food for the birds. They also add shape and interest to the borders, and look especially striking when frosted or dusted with snow. This is also a good time to cut back bush, shrub and climbing roses.
The short, dull days after Christmas are when most gardeners peruse plant lists and seed catalogues and order for the coming year. It’s also a good time to start sowing flower seeds in a conservatory or heated greenhouse. If you leave sowing until March or April you’re missing the opportunity to get a head start. Flowers that can be sown in January or February include dianthus, antirrhinums, lobelia, begonia, geraniums, sweet peas and petunias. Once they have germinated move them to a cooler place so they grow more slowly and plant out when it’s milder.
What to do now
- Dead-head autumn-flowering plants and prune summer-flowering shrubs.
- Keep off the grass – walking on it damage it.
- Protect plants from the cold by adding cloches to winter salads and wrapping half-hardy plants in fleece. Bring tender plants indoors.
- Dig garden beds. Digging now allows the frost to break up the soil, improving the structure.
- Put out feeders for garden birds.
- Create a compost heap.
- Plant bulbs.
- Plant garlic and fruit bushes.
- Winter prune apple trees.
- Divide snowdrops in January
Don’t forget the birds!
To keep your little visitors warm this winter, put out plenty of fat balls, seeds and nuts. They will give the birds the necessary energy to keep warm. Plus, they need water – so, keep the bath topped up. If you’re pruning shrubs this winter, don’t be too thorough and tidy as these can be used as shelter.