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Winter In Your Garden

1st of December 2009

Finding time to do all the garden chores before Christmas often proves quite difficult. December is, however, a very good time to get the garden cleaned up and to make compost. The greenhouse will need to be cleaned if not already done. Sterilise with Jeyes Fluid or Armillatox and fumigate with a sulphur candle, if empty. Insulate with bubble plastic and make sure that the heater works and then take all the tender plants inside. Make sure that all outside taps and exposed water pipes are lagged so that they do not freeze in frosty weather and also ensure you provide food and water for the garden birds. Wind can cause damage to plants at this time of the year so make sure that windbreaks are provided and that tall plants are staked to prevent wind-rocking. Deciduous plants seldom suffer from freezing but evergreens grown in pots and containers can be damaged if their roots freeze solid. In the vegetable garden brussels sprouts, broccoli and leeks can be harvested and parsnips need to be lifted and stored before the soil freezes. Keep digging, adding farmyard manure except where rootcrops are to be grown. The garden centre has a good selection of things which make excellent Christmas gifts for gardeners. The H.T.A. Garden Gift Token is a good idea as it can be exchanged at most garden centres throughout the country. As soon as the New Year dawns it will be time to start to sow some plants under glass. There will be a huge selection of seeds by Suttons and Unwins in the garden centre. Specialist seeds for exhibition can be purchased by mail order. Exhibition onions are usually sown by the end of December. January is the best month to start pruning apple and pear trees but not plums. Cut out crossing branches and remove any diseased wood. Wisterias and some vines can be pruned now and summer flowering shrubs should be pruned as soon as possible. If the ground is not frozen, planting of trees, shrubs, conifers, roses and herbaceous perennials can continue. If the ground is frozen then the shed can be cleared out and time can be spent planning the garden for the coming spring. Hard landscaping (doing construction work) can be done at this time of the year. Window boxes and containers can dry out in the winter and may need to be watered. Seed potatoes will be on sale during January and they should be purchased as soon as possible so that they can be sprouted or chitted in a frost free light place. If it is new potatoes you like, then choose early varieties such as Arran Pilot, Home Guard, Pentland Javelin and Sutton’s Foremost. Maincrop varieties are suitable for baking or mashing. When you visit the garden centre, just have a look at all the plants on show which give colour during the winter.
Terry Simmonds

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