Jobs for the garden this winter

Winter is a great time for gardeners to take stock, tidy up, protect plants and plan ahead. Read on for our month-by-month winter gardening guide.

28th August 2017
Snowdrops

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. Here are some ideas to keep you busy and lay the foundation for a great spring and summer next year.

 

Garden jobs for November

CLEAR UP AND SHORE UP

Dead-head autumn-flowering plants and prune summer-flowering shrubs before the first frosts. Check structures are stable and if they aren’t then mend them now before high winds and snow do more serious damage.

KEEP OFF THE GRASS

Although grass is evergreen it is dormant in winter, so avoid walking on it or you will damage it fairly easily. If you must walk on it, pop a plank down temporarily so that your weight is spread more evenly.

Wrapping pots
Wrap tender plants in fleece or move them indoors. Image: Getty

PROTECT PLANTS

Add cloches to winter salads to protect them from the weather and pests and wrap pots of half-hardy plants in bubble wrap or fleece. Bring tender plants indoors or put them in a greenhouse.

GET DIGGING

If you have clay soil now is the time to dig the beds but hold fire if the ground is sodden or after a frost. Digging now allows the frost to break up the soil over the winter, improving the structure. As long as your beds aren’t seriously compacted there is no need to double dig. If you have a sandy soil it’s best to wait until spring to dig as your beds will be more prone to moisture loss thanks to their free-draining nature.

Hedgehog in winter
Hedgehogs are in decline, so help them out with fresh water and leave corners untidy to give them somewhere to hibernate. Image: Getty

LOOK AFTER WILDLIFE

Birds will appreciate nuts, seeds and fat balls left out for them this winter. Remember to freshen up water regularly and ensure it doesn’t freeze over.

Keeping an area of your garden untidy, with a pile of logs and fallen leaves, makes a perfect hedgehog house.

Read our essential guide to helping hedgehogs in your garden

ADD NUTRIENTS

Add compost or well-rotted manure to your beds now for healthier plants next year. Either fork it in or, if you have ‘no dig’ raised beds, spread it on top. It’s also a good time to make leaf mold. Make a wire cage for the leaves so they don’t blow away, or keep in black plastic bags with a little soil added to help them break down, and a few punctures in the bag.

COVER THE GROUND

If you have an allotment, and you’re not planting a crop to over-winter, cover your empty veg beds with landscaping fabric or cardboard and weigh it down with planks and bricks. This will keep the weeds down over winter, and the soil will warm up quicker in spring. Covering beds also prevents loss of nutrients from the soil due to rain and wind.

PLANT BULBS

There’s still time to get bulbs in the ground in November to guarantee winter colour from January onwards. Choose a mixture of varieties and plant in clumps, so that you get a good effect. You can lift and divide them every few years too.

Garden jobs for December

TIDY YOUR TOOLS

Get secateurs sharpened, fix loose spade handles and wash your gardening gloves. Sharp tools are safer and better for your plants, as a clean cut when pruning is less likely to let in disease. If you have a greenhouse or potting shed (lucky you) now’s the time to give it a good clear out.

BRING IN YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE

If you keep a live tree outside in a pot, bring it in a few days before Christmas and leave it for 24 hours before you decorate it. Conifers are very happy in the freezing cold, and miserable in a centrally-heated house, so give it plenty of water and keep it away from the radiators.

PLAN AHEAD

Take stock of your gardening year. Do not be disheartened by your gardening imperfections or failures, but devote some time to pondering what you will do differently in the coming year.

Garden tools
Frosty pots look pretty, but if you're not using them, bring them inside to reduce the risk of them cracking. Image: Getty 

GET YOUR FIVE A DAY

Garlic can go into the ground now as long as the soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged. Rhubarb can be divided and bare-root fruit trees and bushes can be planted now, as can raspberries and blackberries.

STORE UP GOODNESS

Crops harvested in winter that can be stored include carrots and parsnips, cabbage, maincrop potatoes, late season apples and pears, pumpkins, squashes, beans, onions, shallots, garlic and root vegetables. Whether you’re wrapping apples in paper or digging a clamp for your carrots, inspect your harvest thoroughly and discard anything that’s not in perfect condition - not only will it rot, it’ll contaminate the rest of your crop.

Garden jobs for January

ORDER YOUR SEEDS

It’s still too early to dig, but it’s not too early to dream. Get your seeds ordered now for any veg and fruit you’re planning to grow. Ordering from seed catalogues guarantees more interesting varieties than can be bought at large commercial garden centres.

Winter pruning
Winter is the perfect time to prune fruit trees. Image: Getty

WINTER PRUNE APPLE AND PEAR TREES

Fruit trees are dormant now, so it’s safe to prune them. Remove dead, diseased and damaged wood, and eliminate any instances of branches crossing and rubbing against each other - remove the weaker one. Wear gloves, use sharp, clean tools, and cut at an angle, so that the face of the cut angles downwards, allowing rain to run off it and preventing it rotting.

Chitting potatoes
Chit your potatoes now for success come spring. Image: Getty

START YOUR VEG

Sow Cavelo Nero, broad beans, winter salad and radish seeds, plant onions, leeks and garlic. Sow peas indoors to plant out in March or April and chit seed potatoes.

DIVIDE SNOWDROPS

Snowdrops spread by seed and will expand about 3cm in all directions per year. To help them spread more quickly, dig and divide them immediately after they’ve flowered and replant about 30cm apart. If you’re planting them from fresh, planting in the green in February is usually the best route to success.

 

Phew! Done all that? Then discover our top ten plants for winter colour or plan your visit to some of the best gardens in the UK this winter

 

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