Winter Gardening

Winter doesn’t have to be white in the garden, even if there is a blanket of snow covering the soil. Most of the colour comes from berries: hollies, firethorn, and other winter-fruiting plants that add unexpected splashes of reds and oranges to your winter garden.

Plan Ahead with Holly

If you have a berrying holly, it’s a good idea to cut some boughs for Christmas early. How many of us have glanced at a holly bush in November and looked forward to seeing the berries indoors for Christmas, only to notice two weeks later that everything has been stripped by the birds? Holly boughs will last perfectly well in a bucket of water in a sheltered corner close to the house.

Overwinter Sweet Peas

If you haven’t already sown your sweet peas, you can do this now under cover. Sown now they’ll give you earlier flowers in greater numbers and a longer season. All legumes, these included, thrive with a long root run, so deep pots are ideal. Some heat will speed up germination, but it is not essential. They’ll germinate in about ten days, but watch for mice as they love them!

Seasonal Sensation

For vibrant indoor colour at the darkest time of year, poinsettias beat all other houseplants hands down. Although they usually have vivid scarlet bracts, they come in a variety of colour combinations from rich, creamy whites and golds to lush, dreamy pinks. Once you’ve brought your plant home, protect it from chilly draughts and direct sunlight, water sparingly and feed monthly.

Grow Garlic

Home-grown garlic takes up little space and requires hardly any effort to get a good crop. It’s a good crop to grow with children, as garlic is easy to grow, and the cloves are the perfect size to be planted by small hands. There are two types of garlic to grow: softneck garlic and hardneck garlic. Softneck garlic is easier to grow and stores well but hardneck garlic, while less hardy and not as long-lasting as softneck garlic, is said to have the best flavour. There’s also elephant garlic, which bears giant, mild-flavoured bulbs, which you can grow for a lighter garlic.

What to do now

  • Plant out spring bedding displays of pansies, violas and primulas.
  • Plant bare root roses – they can be planted any time between now and March.
  • Before the birds eat them all, cut a few stems of holly with berries for making Christmas garlands. Stand them in a bucket of water in a sheltered spot.
  • Divide mature clumps of rhubarb once they are dormant.
  • Prune apple and pear trees between now and February.
  • Clean out the greenhouse thoroughly.
  • Wash the glass and floor with horticultural disinfectant.

Make Time for the Birds

Natural food sources for birds are in short supply in the depths of winter, so help your garden birds by regularly putting out food for them. It is better to feed them little and often, and always put out some fresh water too, especially when temperatures are freezing. Winter is a time to provide high fat treats to help keep them warm.

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