Winter In The Garden
With Christmas approaching it is easy to forget about the garden. However, with the colder days on their way, less hardy plants will need to be protected. Stake trees and taller shrubs to prevent rocking in the wind and put up windbreaks. Get pipes and outdoor taps lagged against freezing and line the glasshouse with bubble plastic to help raise the temperature.
The pond pump will need to be removed and stored and a good pond heater should help the fish. Make sure there is food and water for the birds. There will still be leaves to sweep up, old bedding plants to dig out and prunings to be collected. All these can be added to the compost heap. Keep on top of the weeds – mulching will help keep them under control and protect the roots of plants from damage at the same time.
As long as the weather remains mild planting bulbs, autumn bedding plants, container-grown shrubs, roses, climbers and conifers can continue.
The best time to sow sweet peas is before Christmas and exhibition onions should be sown soon after. Once we get into the new year it will be time to do much of the pruning of fruit trees other than plums which are pruned in the summer. Fruit should be sprayed in January with a winter wash and peach trees will need to be sprayed with Dithane or Copper Fungicide. Seed potatoes should be purchased and sprouted in a light frost-free place. Do keep off the grass during the winter but remember to arrange for the lawn mower to be serviced so that it will be in good order as soon as the grass starts to grow again.
In the garden centre the new range of seeds arrives soon after Christmas and it is a good time to pick up a seed catalogue which should give details of the best sowing times. The darker nights are the best time to make all the plans for the garden and there are plenty of books and magazines which will help. When you visit the garden centre to select a Christmas tree do have a look at the many items which make good gifts for gardeners. There are garden gadgets, hand tools, boots, kneelers, gloves, pots, propagators, seeds, bulbs, thermometers, soil testers, labelling machines and bird houses. HTA Garden Gift Tokens make acceptable gifts or why not take out a gift membership to the Royal Horticultural Society or the National Trust or a gift subscription to one of the many garden magazines.