What to do, ditch and enjoy over the coming winter months…
As we take our first tentative steps towards winter it’s time to assess the situation, make final winter garden preparations and make peace with the tasks that you haven’t managed to complete on time.
If you haven’t already done that dreaded job that you’ve been putting off for the past two months (we all have one) then ask yourself whether or not it’s essential, give yourself an honest answer and then either get to it, delegate or forget about it as fitting.
- Prune climbing roses. Remove all old or weakened growth and trim side-shoots which have flowered. Train main stems as horizontally as possible, or bend them round obelisks or pillars to stimulate more copious flowering next year.
- Plant shrubs. Tease out congested or balled roots of containerised specimens before you plant. Sprinkle a handful of bonemeal into the bottom of each planting hole and mix it with the soil. Support newly planted shrubs with stakes and purpose-made ties.
- Plant a hedge. This is a good month to plant hedges such as beech, hornbeam, yew or privet. Dig a generous trench and partially back-fill it with enriched compost to give your hedge plants the best start. Include ‘Rootgrow’ – macrobiotics for plants – at planting for quick establishment. Fragrant Dwarf Lavender Munstead gives excellent ground cover and great low screening.
- Clean your greenhouse glass. During short days it’s important for maximum daylight to enter your greenhouse so glass should be as transparent as possible. Cleaning all surfaces and crannies will reduce disease and help to destroy overwintering pests.
- Remove any branches that have the potential to cause trouble, damage or danger over the winter – better to do this now before it gets too cold. Have this Yeoman Turbo Folding Saw on standby for those last minute maintenance jobs.
- Sow broad beans. The winter variety, Aquadulce ‘Claudia’, is hardy enough to sow outside and needs no protection. The crop will ripen in early summer, next year before blackfly infestations begin.
- Carrots, parsnips and swedes can be harvested as required for a few weeks yet. Gather them all by Christmas and store any surplus in a cool, dry, dark place.
- Dig out old rhubarb plants and, with a spade, slice out small divisions or ‘slips’ from the corky root mass. Replant ‘slips’ which have roots and dormant buds. Established rhubarb can remain in place for several years but gradually becomes less productive.
- Prune blackberries, Tayberries and Loganberries by removing all stems that have borne fruit. Carefully train and tie in stems that grew from the plant base, this summer but have yet to flower. They’ll carry next summer’s crop.
- Prune Gooseberries and red currants, removing any stems which cross, or are awkwardly placed. Cut newly grown side shoots back to roughly an inch from the stem.
- Invest in the most stylish shrub around – The Blueberry ‘Top Hat’ makes a fabulous addition to the garden. High in vitamin C, blueberries are great for eating fresh or for culinary purposes for quince or jam. A compact shrub, ideal for the patio and another great way to attract birds into your garden all year round.
- Hazel nuts, gathered last month, are perfect for eating now. Walnuts will also be sweet and fresh – try them with a glass of home-made sloe gin.
- Look for feathery seed heads on some clematis and bright orange seeds in the pods of Iris foetidissima.
- Paper-White Narcissus (N. papyraceus) will flower within four weeks of planting indoors, in pots or bowls.
- Leeks, planted out in late spring, can be harvested as needed.
- Birds at feeding stations. Nuthatches, blue tits and great tits are in beautiful colour after their autumn moult and fascinating to watch at feeding stations.