1. Clear up fallen leaves
Leaves in beds choke the plants, and on lawns, prevent the grass from growing (by blocking out the light). So the best thing to do all round is whip them into piles and put them on a compost. They make very rich compost for use for all your New Year growing needs.
2. Planting bulbs
Now is the time to be getting those bulbs out, preparing the ground and wedging them down in the soil. Tulips, daffodils snowdrops, crocuses and bluebells all need to be planted at this time of year, ready to shoot up in early spring. Plant them twice as deep as the length of the bulb, several inches apart so they have room to grow. Try to plant them the right way up, although it’s not a disaster if you don’t as they’ll right themselves as they grow. A nice approach, if you want the bulbs to grow up through the lawn, is to dig up the top layer of grass with a spade, plant the bulbs in the soil directly underneath and cover with earth. Then lay the layer of soil and grass back on top and pat down with feet or a spade. Your bulbs will grow up, intermingled with the grass, to create a wild looking spread.
3. Pick remaining root vegetables
Lift and store remaining vegetables in the garden that have not yet been picked, such as swede, beetroot, carrots and turnips. Brussel sprouts need picking at this time of year in particular. This is easily done by just picking them off the stem. For other roots, take a fork and push it into the ground surrounding the vegetables. Wiggle it about until you can easily pull the root out by its leaves. Hit the vegetable on the side of the fork to remove all soil and collect up in a basket.
4. Plant fruit bushes
Small bushes thrive at this time of year. There are many types, including strawberries, grapes, gooseberries, blackberries, redcurrents and blueberries. They grow to an intermediate size and the fruit can be picked in spring and early summer, although they need to be pruned as the year goes on to keep them in shape. Plant them as a cutting or as a small bush from a garden centre.
5. Prune rose bushes and trees
Pick up a pair of secateurs and get chopping! Make sure you wear a pair of thick gardening gloves to guard against the thorns on the rose bush and keep your hands toasty in the winter months. You’ll need to cut the branch just above a bud, so a new shoot can grow. The dead wood can be discarded. However it’s not just rose bushes that need pruning. Many bushes and trees grow wild over the winter months and need nipping into shape. Collect up the branches you cut and either put them on the compost, or have an outdoor fire. An open fire is always a treat in the winter – especially with some jacket spuds!
6. Insulate outdoor containers from frost
Some plants and vegetables cannot cope with the cold. There’s no need to bring them into the house, but it may be worth insulating them or putting them in a greenhouse if you have one. If you don’t, wrap bubblewrap, fleecing or loft/wall insulation around the plant, quite tightly several times. This can be bought from a DIY shop or a garden centre.
7. Sort out the pond
If you’re lucky enough to have a fishpond, it’s going to need some care this winter. In autumn, you should have either built or bought a net to spread over the top of the pond to prevent leaves from falling in it. If leaves fall in the pond, they sink to the bottom and absorb oxygen from the water, leaving it poorly aerated and bad for plants and fish. Building a net is quite straightforward – just hammer together a wooden frame and attach a loose net to it. It is also important to place a small plastic ball in the water. If the pond freezes over, you can remove the ball, leaving a small hole for fish to come to the surface. Don’t make any new additions to the pond at this time of year. The water will be cold and fish will find it hard to adapt. If you prepare your pond well, come spring, you’ll have a nice environment for frogs and toads to lay their spawn and will be able to enjoy the newcomers.
8. Make a bird box
Now is the time of year to encourage local birds into your garden. Worms and other bird foods are becoming scarce, so if you want to bring birds in, you’ll need to build a bird box and put out food for them. The birds will reward you by eating aphids, caterpillars, slugs and snails in your garden. There are many household titbits that can do for bird food: seeds, nuts, bread, scraps of bacon fat, fruit and raisins. Place the food relatively high up, next to a saucer of water for birds to wash in and drink. A bird box should have a small entrance hole and enough room inside to make a nest, lay eggs and sit on them.
9. Build a hedgehog house
In the winter, hedgehogs get very cold and yearn for a place to hide away. If you want to build a hedgehog house, it’s best to consult a gardening book or garden centre. The house needs to be of the right proportions; a hedgehog needs to be able to enter and leave and turn around comfortably inside. It should be hidden in the ground with a small entrance above the soil. You can plant bushes around the entrance to the house and over the top to make it more cosy and hidden away.
10. Net plants against pigeons
At this time of year, pigeons can become a nuisance. The best way of preventing them pecking your plants and vegetables to pieces is to through a sturdy net over the top to prevent them gaining access. This can be removed in the spring.