You might assume that winter in the garden is a time for tidying, pruning and waiting for spring. While it is true that tidying and pruning ought to form part of your winter garden activities, the UK’s temperate climate makes year-round growing and gardening possible not only in greenhouses, but also in gardens and allotments. Here are 10 tips to help any gardener make the most of the winter season.
Tidying might be an obvious task but it’s not one that should be neglected. Not only should tidying include sweeping paths and mending fences, but also removing the last of the fallen autumn leaves, decaying grass clippings and moss from lawns, which helps create a healthier habitat. Similarly, most garden ponds and natural swimming pools will benefit from a careful cleaning.
Feeding the birds is a popular activity for many gardeners. However, insects can also benefit from a little care and attention, so consider installing an insect hotel; this can be anything from a purpose-built structure to a pile of leaves and logs left in a corner. Providing shelter to insects such as centipedes, woodlice and beetles will help them survive the winter. Many of these creepy-crawlies are immensely beneficial to plants, which will help your spring gardening efforts.
Mild, dry winter days are good times to prune roses, deciduous shrubs and fruit trees.
Grass continues to grow throughout the year if there is sufficient sunlight and rain. Mowing keeps grass looking its best.: but just remember to raise the mower blades and only mow on dry days.
5. Patios and paths
Give paths and patios a face-lift courtesy of a good sweeping and a pressure wash.
6. Sheds and greenhouses
Winter is the ideal time to spring-clean sheds and greenhouses to get them ready for the new year. Don’t forget to clean and sharpen your tools.
7. Winter sowing
Winter does not necessarily have to mean foregoing planting or enjoying home-grown produce. Garlic and onions both have long growing seasons. Autumn or winter-sown crops will not be ready for harvesting until the summer but will be worth the wait. Winter-planted spring onions are faster growers and should be ready by early spring. Perpetual spinach is a crop that will keep you supplied with fresh green leaves all winter. Equally, if you have a polytunnel or greenhouse, several varieties of lettuce do well over the winter.
8. Container planting
Provided you use a frost-hardy pot and a heavy soil-based compost, there is no reason to eschew container planting in winter. Evergreen shrubs, such as holly, make a good show and provide some much-needed colour.
9. Beds and borders
Winter pansies and other hardy favourites, like cyclamen, can be used to great effect to enliven beds and borders. If the weather is particularly cold, restricting planting to areas close to the house or garden protects the plants from the worst of the weather.
10. Plan ahead
Winter is the perfect time to plan the forthcoming year’s gardening. Planned changes can be major – perhaps a new bed or a pond – or smaller, such as a compost heap or rainwater butt. Either way, you have time to think and sketch out your ideas on paper.