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In Your Garden

2nd of December 2005

Gardeners do not get much time off during the winter months because this time of the year is when we prepare for the coming seasons. As long as weather permits we should be clearing up the rubbish, weeding, cutting back plants, dividing perennials and of course making compost. The vegetable garden should be dug and farmyard manure should be added, except for the area reserved for root-crop vegetables. Slippery algae on paths should be treated with something like Jeyes Fluid. If not already done, the greenhouse should be cleaned with a disinfectant and, to save on future heating bills, it should be lined with bubble plastic. Check that the greenhouse heaters (and pond heaters) are in good working order. Pond pumps should be taken inside and drained, outside pipework drained and taps lagged to prevent freezing up. Deciduous trees and shrubs usually fare well in severe winter weather, but evergreens can certainly suffer especially those that are grown in pots or containers. I have seen camellias and viburnums grown in pots killed outright by severe frosts freezing their roots. Wrapping up the pots does help to save these plants. Winter winds can damage some plants and the use of fleece or some other barrier will help.

If the weather is still mild in early December the lawn should be aerated but always keep off the lawn in frosty weather. Now is the time to get the lawn mower serviced so that it is ready for use when the grass starts to grow next spring. Chipperfield Garden Machinery are offering readers of Chipperfield News a discount of 20% off their service bill provided that the labour charge is pre-paid. This offer runs up the end of January but you will need to show them this article when you go to see them.

Christmas is coming but traditionally the keen show gardener will sow his Mammoth or Kelsea onions on Boxing Day! There are quite a lot of useful gifts for gardeners and garden lovers in the garden centre now, including of course the HTA Garden gift tokens.

If weather permits, January is the best month to get fruit trees pruned and sprayed. Summer-flowering shrubs can be pruned, but not spring-flowering ones. Seed potatoes will be on sale in January and they should be purchased as soon as possible so that the tubers can be ‘chitted’ in a frost-free place so that they are ready for planting out next spring. Varieties like Arran Pilot, Home Guard, International Kidney, Pentland Javelin and Suttons Foremost are suitable for use as new potatoes. Varieties for use as baking potatoes or for mashing include Estima, Desiree, Maris Piper and that old favourite, King Edward. After Christmas there will be a huge selection of seeds in the garden centre and some of the flower seeds will need to be sown early in the new year.

Terry Simmonds

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