Things Not To Do
Before listing things to be getting on with this month bear in mind that, in the depths of Winter, your plants and soil, like you, might fare better if left in peace until conditions become more clement. So:
- Don’t dig if the soil is frozen or waterlogged.
- Don’t over-water house/greenhouse/conservatory plants. Many will be in a state of at least semi-dormancy and will need only enough water to stop the soil completely drying out.
- Don’t plant or move shrubs unless the weather has been mild and reasonably dry for a number of consecutive days.
Start Collecting Seed Catalogues And Think About Summer
Some of the most enjoyable gardening this time of year is done from the warmth of home, in the comfort of an armchair. Collect a good stock of gardening catalogues (which will already be available for next season’s stock), and start planning for the year to come. It may be the depths of winter, but in as little as 6 weeks you could be making the first sowings of next Summer’s vegetables and ornamentals. If nothing else, pictures of burgeoning fruits, fecund beds and multi-coloured flowers will lift the spirits no end.
Set aside a day to do some tools maintenance. What this involves depends of course on your enthusiasm for such chores, but if you do nothing else resolve to, first, sharpen your tools and, second, keep them sharp. You’ll be amazed at the rejuvenating powers of a little bit of careful sharpening on a maligned old tool.
Anything that cuts (or, rather, anything that no longer cuts) needs sharpening. There are the obvious ones such as loppers, shears, secateurs, knives and scissors, but remember also that spades and hoes are cutting tools and, as such, will benefit from having a sharp edge put on them.
As for resolving to keep tools sharp, invest in some good quality tool sharpening gear and aim to use it regularly, to keep those sharp edges keen.
Pest Of The Month – Rabbits
- As the Winter starts to set in food resources become scarce for wildlife, and plants that have, up until now, been untroubled by pests can come unexpectedly under attack. There is no better example of this than the problem we’ve had in the hospital grounds during the previous two (exceptionally cold) Winters with rabbits, stripping the bark off trees. Rabbits can kill a tree – even a relatively mature fruit tree – by effectively ring-barking the tree at the base. They will do this when the ground is frozen or deep in snow, making most other food sources are unavailable.
- Protect the bottom 3 feet of tree trunks with home made or shop bought tree-guards (even a piece of carpet tied around the trunk should be enough to deter them).
In The Greenhouse
Annual Greenhouse Clean
Generally speaking, greenhouses should be thoroughly cleaned once a year. There are two reasons for this:
- To clean the glass so that the maximum amount of light can get to the plants inside
- To disinfect all surfaces.
Ideally, what you should do is the following. Remove as many plants as possible and then, using a horticultural disinfectant (such as “Armillatox” which is both bio-degradable and made from naturally occurring ingredients), wash all surfaces. Use a squirter and a brush to clean out all crevices, such as those between glass panes and framework. Leave the disinfectant to work its magic for an hour or two and then wash down all surfaces with clean water. If you are unable to find a disinfectant that meets your environmental/organic credentials then use a powerful jet of clean water to wash down your greenhouse; at the very least you should aim to get all the glass clean inside and out.
Citrus Winter Feed
Citrus plants grown in containers require two different types of fertilizer – winter and summer. Start applying the winter feed now, at the rate and frequency recommended by the supplier.
In last month’s tips I told you that November was your last chance to plant Garlic before winter set in. This was kind of true. It was your last chance to plant outdoors, but not to plant in modules in an unheated greenhouse. Use a modular tray filled with compost and plant the cloves so that the top of each is just poking out of the compost. When green shoots are an inch or so high, and a strong root system has been established, the cloves are ready to be planted out. Do this during a mild spell, and after hardening off in a cold-frame.
Previous Garden Tips That Still Apply
Forced Bulbs For Indoor Winter Flowers
If you have forced bulbs growing in a cool dark place, make sure they do not become dried out. When the shoots reach an inch or so in height the bulbs are ready to bring into light, warm conditions. (See Sep for details)
An easy and free way of obtaining a wide range of fruit and ornamental bushes. (See Oct for details)
Where next year you plan to grow runner beans, pumpkins, courgettes or sweet corn. (See Sep for details)
Any time in the dormant season is good for a wide variety of plants. (See Nov for details)
Feed The Birds
Hanging feeders will attract blue tits, great tits, coal tits, long-tailed tits, greenfinches, goldfinches, chaffinches, sparrows and nuthatches. Loose feed for robins, dunnocks, blackbirds, thrushes, fieldfares and redwings. (See Nov for details)
Protection For Over-wintering Beasties
Don’t be too enthusiastic when tidying your garden or plot of the debris that has accumulated over recent weeks and months. Take particular care if you are planning to turn or empty your compost heap. (See Nov for details)
Plant Bare-root Trees and Shrubs
If the weather remains mild then there is still time, but the sooner you do it the better. (See Nov for details)
Dig In Manure And Compost
If the soil has caused you problems in the growing season just gone, incorporate organic matter; (don’t dig if the soil is heavy or waterlogged). (See Nov for details)
Sow Hardy-Perennial Seeds And Tree Seeds
Seeds that need stratification – moistening, followed by sustained periods of cold and mild weather – can be sown now. (See Nov for details)
Check Stored Fruit And Veg
Make periodic checks for disease or signs of pests amongst the produce you have stored. (See Sep for details of setting up a veg store)
Lawn Mower Care
A little care now could save much frustration next year. (See Nov for details)