The cold weather makes the garden a less than desirable place to visit. But don’t be discouraged; rug up and carry on! It’s time for tackling those winter gardening tasks (plus it’s a great way to keep warm!).
In the Veggie Patch
Add compost around growing winter vegetables to help absorb excess water from typical winter downpours. Harvest any vegetables that are ready and continue sowing seeds (directly) or plant seedlings of broad beans, onions, peas and spinach into well prepared soil. Old crowns of rhubarb can be divided and replanted into permanent positions around 600mm apart. Rhubarb thrives on ‘rich soil’ so incorporate generous amounts of compost into the existing soil when planting.
Winter flowering annuals should now start coming into full bloom. They are great for adding colour to dreary parts of the garden or in containers to brighten up decks. Try; Alyssum, Calendulas, Cineraria, Lobelia, Nemesias, Pansies, Poppies, Primulas, Snapdragons, Stock and Sweet Pea.
The best of the new season's fruit trees are now available in garden centres. Choose wisely and avoid any older specimens that look root bound or have been in planter bags/containers for a long time. Instead, select vigorous looking trees. Choose fruit tree varieties that will grow and fruit the best in your climate. For instance, some varieties such as citrus are frost sensitive, and others like stone fruit need winter chilling for fruit to set.
June is the main month for pruning your existing deciduous pip and stone fruit trees. Give your secateurs a good clean before you start! For young fruit trees, you want them to develop a strong structure that will carry fruiting wood in successive years. Older trees may require more detailed pruning especially if they have been neglected for a few years. Remove old wood that is no longer producing fruit and any overlapping branches or diseased wood. Reduce the height of older trees to make harvesting easier.
Planting during winter ensures the tree has enough time to establish a good root system before hot summer months. Think about where you want your trees to go in the garden and what you want them to achieve i.e. provide shelter/privacy, provide fruit or be purely ornamental.
To plant your new tree, dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the container it came in. Add generous amounts of compost to the hole and mix in well. Make a mound at the bottom of the hole and place the root ball on this to encourage drainage, then backfill with a mixture of compost and existing soil. Stake the tree for extra support if it’s tall or prone to rocking in strong winds. Mulch with additional compost or crushed bark and water thoroughly to ensure the soil is in firm contact with the root system.
Winter is an excellent time to take a step back and re-think any existing gardens or plan new ones in preparation for spring planting. Monitor areas where you are planning future gardens for cold winds and excessive moisture, as both conditions will influence what you can plant in that area.