Winter can seem like a time when not a lot happens out in the garden. It gets cold, there is less sunlight, and things begin to die. Of course, the most seasoned gardeners will know that while there isn’t as much to do over winter as there is over summer, time doesn’t just stand still.
Here are the key things to consider when making your garden winter-ready:
It’s always a good idea to research the different plants and shrubs in your garden and their many pruning needs, before you take to them with your secateurs.
Some climbers, such as certain types of clematis, like to be cut back virtually to ground level in the autumn/ winter months, but other types prefer to wait until just before spring. Other plants, such as camellias, will blossom in the autumn months, so cutting them back at this time seems rather foolish. It’s truly amazing how even in a small urban garden the different plants that you have will likely have very different needs. Just make sure that you do your research.
Remember too that the products of your pruning – the dead branches, leaves, and flowers that you remove – are useful organic matter. Consider placing these in a compost bin (or a bucket with a good lid) to rot down, thus providing mulch and compost for your own use later on.
The phrase ‘general maintenance’ may not sound in the slightest bit interesting, but clearing, covering, weeding, and cleaning are all important chores to get out of the way before the wet, cold and windy weather sets in.
Pull out weeds from around plants that are in containers (make sure you get them from the root) and try to remove as much as possible from between paving slabs. It has to be said, weeding is my least favourite job in the world – a necessary evil.
Sweep up the amber-coloured autumnal leaves that scatter the ground, and consider adding them to a compost bin. Cover up wooden furniture to protect it from the elements, as well as any other items such as shovels, brooms, and even BBQs. You can buy large tarpaulin-type sheets from garden centres and hardware stores for this job. If you don’t have a shed or any other form of storage, just pop everything under the sheet for winter, and be sure to weigh down the edges with heavy stones to stop it from taking flight during windy weather.
Continue in the fightback against slugs and snails
Over the winter months slugs and snails take refuge from the cold weather in different nooks and crannies – exposing these places and clearing them away will keep the molluscs on the move. Think corners and areas that are protected from the elements – a pile of bricks, perhaps, or some paving slabs leant against a wall. Sweep and clear all such areas, and try to ensure that you move any items that may be creating a safe snail haven.
It’s also a good idea to rake over the soil around potted plants and in beds. Slugs tend to lay their eggs just below the surface of soil, and raking will expose them to the cold air. If you find any large clusters of eggs (they look like little translucent spheres) then hoik them out and chuck them over the back fence (preferably not into a neighbour’s garden).
Protect vulnerable potted plants
Some internet research will again prove helpful to determine which of your potted plants may struggle to make it through the colder months. It can be a good idea to stand potted plants together in a more sheltered spot to offer some elemental protection. You could even consider purchasing a cloche (a transparent plastic dome) or two to keep the frost off any plants that are not cold-hardy.