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Winter In Your Garden

2nd of December 2004

We are told that we are to expect a hard winter this time. Certainly trees and shrubs are laden with a mass of berries and seeds at the moment. If the big freeze does come, make sure that the outside taps are lagged and items containing water are emptied. Severe weather does damage evergreen plants particularly those grown in tubs and these should be moved inside (the garage would do for a while) or plants can be protected using fleece or bubble plastic. The greenhouse should be insulated using bubble plastic too. To prevent damage to ponds, it’s a good idea to float a rubber ball in them, but if fish are present a small area of ice should be melted daily using warm water. Make sure that the birds are kept fed, particularly in frosty weather.
Winter is a good time for treating sheds and fences when the weather allows. Digging the vegetable garden and flower beds should continue adding manure if possible. Clear away and compost remaining leaves and weeds and remove moss and lichen using Jeyes Fluid or household bleach. January is the best month for pruning fruit trees (except plums) and spraying with a winter spray. Woody shrubs and grape vines should be pruned now and roses can be given a light pruning too. Hardwood cuttings can be taken at this time of the year. Spray peach trees against Peach Leaf Curl before mid-February at the latest. Keep off lawns at this time of the year, particularly when they are frozen, but if this cannot be avoided always use a plank. If the lawn mover has not yet been serviced, arrange for this to be done well before the spring rush. Bulbs growing in bowls should be brought into a light and warm place if they are still in the dark. Now is a good time to dig up and move herbaceous plants and to cut back those that have died down for the winter. Bare root hedging plants and soft fruit such as raspberries can be planted now. In the greenhouse, as soon as Christmas has passed, seed sowing can commence with the Mammoth and Kelsea onions, plus cauliflowers, cabbage, spinach and turnips. In January, geraniums and begonias are sown as well as antirrhinums, cyclamen, coleus, sweet peas and some of the alpines.
Most of us will visit the garden centre before Christmas to choose our Christmas tree, but at the same time we can find a host of ideas for Christmas gifts for our gardening friends. A HTA garden token is a good idea too. In the new year, we will need to start to buy our seeds, onion sets and shallots. Seed potatoes should be purchased early so that they can be ‘chitted’ in a light and frost-free place. And look at the winter-flowering plants such as the skimmia, viburnums, callicarpa, mahonia, winter jasmine, plus the snowdrops and cyclamen, winter aconites and heathers. What a feast!
Have a great gardening year in 2005. Terry Simmonds

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