Hello, welcoming back to the first garden jobs of 2019. We made it through the rains, we made it through the bitter cold and we made it through the heat wave.
I hope you are all keeping well, fit and healthy because we’ve got some work to do in the garden this month. It may be winter, but that should not stop you from getting outside and doing what we like best, tending our garden. That’s right, were going to do it all over again.
I’m going to remind you to wear suitable clothing to protect yourself. This also should include footwear, perhaps a scarf and if like me, a decent hat. Ensure that you have weatherproof garments to combat the weather of the day. Check your gardening gloves if you use them. Make sure they are not worn or there are holes in them. Some stores have some good deals or sales on outdoor clothing that will keep you dry and warm which will ensure that gardening will remain enjoyable.
At this time of the year, a lot of the work in our garden is tidying up, and cutting or pruning back in readiness for the coming growing season. You’ll also probably be able to clear away the last of the fallen leaves that include the ones under bushes and hedges. These should be cleared away as they give protection for snails and slugs during the winter months. Having said that, I always leave the odd pile, out of the way, for insects and other visitors to shelter in during the seasonal cold weather. Talking of leaves, don’t forget to check for those leaves that may be clogging up your greenhouse gutters or even those on your home.
Now is a good time to consider any subtle changes or that project you have had in mind so that you can enjoy the benefits in the coming seasons. Now you can see your garden in its entirety - ask yourself, what would you like to change? Add a compost bin, a water butt, new shed, decking, gravel, raised flowerbed? How about a new planting scheme in the borders?
Many gardeners are reporting losses due to the extreme weather we had last year. So maybe think about a new shrub to fill that gap or two. Forward planning is a great thing if you think about what you’re trying to achieve, sooner rather than later.
All of your roses should have been pruned now whilst they are dormant. Just cut back to just above a bud and remove any crossing or dead branches. You can also plant bare root roses in a sunny position for spectacular summer colour and aroma.
Before growth begins, cut back the old foliage from ornamental grasses you left for interest - clip them to within a few centimetres or inches off the ground. It is time to prune those Clematis that flower in May and June and those that flower in late summer. Also take this time to check out any support system that you are using. Does it need repairing or replacing?
When cutting down the old stems of perennial plants, be careful of any new growth that may be now appearing. Remove old Hellebore leaves to make the new blooms more visible as they emerge this spring. Cut back damaged, diseased and the oldest stems of brightly coloured willows, and thin overcrowded stems. Remove any faded flowers from your winter pansies to stop them setting seed. Spring bulbs are on the move, threatening to bring swathes of colour back into our gardens. Snowdrops were the first to appear, but now it is time to lift and divide those Snowdrops that have passed their best.
If you are storing Begonias, Cannas, Dahlias and Gladioli tubers, check them out for any rot or mildew. You should have stored them in a frost free and dry environment. Many people will also over winter Geraniums and Pelargonium’s. Check for leaf rot and mildew and ensure that the soil is kept moist. At the time of writing this, my stored Fuchsias had begun to produce new shoots!
If they haven’t already, summer bulbs have appeared in the garden centres. Already this year I have been planting out Nerine bulbs that will flower in the late summer through autumn. They give in many cases, that last dash and splash of colour. Have you planned ahead to the blaze of colour and mix of aromas that you want in your garden? You have to remember that the days are now getting longer – So don’t delay and don’t lose out! You may also want to think about buying bulbs online. You will find that the costs are far more favourable than those of garden centres and DIY stores.
You probably wont need to cut the grass yet, but don't let it get too long. If it’s dry enough, you may be able to take the top off. If it’s still waterlogged, keep off it for now. Once its firmed up a bit, aerate your lawn. If your lawn is taking time to drain off, then aerating it will help it along nicely. This is a good time of year is where you can repair hollows and bumps in the lawn that have maybe appeared thanks to the awful weather or maybe a pet. Make sure fallen leaves have been cleared off your lawn, otherwise if you leave it until a later time, you will find there’s a distinct lack of grass.
By the end of the month, it’s an idea to trim any deciduous hedges if they are untidy. This could be your last opportunity to give them a trim before nesting time. Of course, the weather may determine a different timing to the birds. If you have any suspicions that birds might be building in there, leave them straggly. You may also want to consider putting up some nesting boxes.
One annoying feature at this time is that Mole activity will increase in January and February due to mating and building of nests. Moles are insectivores and feed on earthworms, grubs and other small insects. Since earthworms are their preferred food, they tunnel through your lawn in search of a tasty meal. Moles move throughout their tunnels during all times of the day.
If you find that you have a problem with mole activity, there are services available to tackle them. Alternatively, there are devices that stick in the ground that emit ultrasonic waves that moles do not like, and so avoid.
If you have a vegetable patch, now is the time to start digging it over and planning this year’s crop. Continue to harvest leeks, Brussel sprouts (from the bottom upwards), carrots, parsnips and winter brasicas. It’s a good practice to put netting over your brasicas to keep the pigeons off; otherwise they will decimate your crop. Now is the time to sow early crops (radishes, beetroot, spinach, lettuce) in seed trays or modules in a greenhouse or tunnel, or on a windowsill inside in light and airy conditions.
Carry on with pruning apple and pear trees, red and white currants and gooseberries. Keep the centre of the tree or bush open to let in the maximum amount of light and to allow air to circulate freely. Cut out dead and diseased wood and any crossing and rubbing branches. Do not prune stone fruit (plums, cherries, etc.) during the winter, because of the risk of introducing disease. Plant new fruit tree and bushes once the soil is neither sodden nor frozen.
When outside, check your pots and containers for water logging and frost damage. To improve drainage and reduce waterlogging, stand planted patio pots up on feet so that they are slightly raised from direct contact with the ground. Also during very cold spells move them to a sheltered position if you haven’t done so already.
Houseplants hate the winter, but the coming spring offers more light, fresh air and warm. They respond to these perceptive changes with tentative new growth. So tidy them up them a little, pull off dead foliage, and start giving them a little more water.
You may also want to have a check done for any weather damage to fencing and trees, shed roofs and of course the roof of the property where you live, particularly the ridge tiles. Don’t forget to check that the fleece you put on shrubs and pots is intact along with items that you staked and securely tied up.
For those of you with ponds don’t forget to remove any fallen leaves from the pond.
- Check water levels regularly to make sure that you have no leaks.
- As with many stores this year, there could be bargins to be had.
Some stores may be selling-off last years stock at a cheaper price -so now might be a good time to look for pond pumps and lighting etc.
Finally, our feathered friends will still need your help as we have been experiencing some really cold snaps of hard frost. Check the feeders are topped up and any water is clean and not frozen so they can get to it.
Feed them with good quality high energy bird food and fat/suet balls. If you can’t find any bird food, scraps of bacon, mild cheese, fruit, breakfast cereal and uncooked oats are all fine. Moistened bread is only empty filler, but better than nothing.
With 2019 underway, we have a lot to look forward to in the coming year. I will look forward to writing for you all again this year as the season’s progress and our gardens begin to bloom. So until next time, take care when enjoying your gardening.