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Growing - Notes for the Winter Garden


Winter is the coldest season in the, running roughly from December to February (although November can often suffer very wintry conditions too). Temperatures often get as low as freezing point (0oC), though not too much colder usually. This leads to frost in the mornings, ice on car windscreens and roads, and sometimes snow fall. British winters are usually very wet and windy as well, so make sure you wrap up warm and waterproof. To add to the miserable weather, the hours of daylight are very short during the winter, with days in London getting as short as 8 hours at the end of December.


Flower Garden

December

As we approach the shortest day of the year in December you will need work to keep you warm outside, such as digging and tree pruning. Check your winter protection and if you have a greenhouse make sure the heater is working. Hopefully there are not too many jobs left to do this year so you will have time for some fireside garden planning.

Check winter protection structures are still in place and that greenhouse heaters are working. Insulate outdoor taps and prevent ponds from freezing.

Prune acers, birches and vines before Christmas to prevent bleeding.

Deciduous trees and shrubs can still be planted and hardwood cuttings can be taken.

January

January might be the middle of winter but as the days lengthen the garden starts to grow. Now is a great time to plan for the coming gardening year and to order seeds and plants. Enjoy the fresh air, on dry sunny days, and check your winter protection, stakes, ties and supports are still working after any severe weather. Also put out food for birds and leave some garden areas uncut, a little longer, to provide shelter for wildlife in your garden.

Shred Christmas Trees for mulching. Clean pots, greenhouse and frames ready for Spring.

Disperse worm casts on lawns and inspect stored tubers for rot.

February

This month there are signs of the approaching spring, with bulbs appearing and wildlife waking up as light levels and temperatures increase. There's plenty to do indoors this month to prepare for the season ahead. Outdoors, as the garden comes to life again, it's time to prune shrubs and climbers, such as Wisteria as well as evergreen hedges.

Prune winter-flowering shrubs that have finished flowering and prune wisteria.

Divide bulbs such as snowdrops and plant those that needplanting 'in the green'.

Cut back deciduous grasses and remove dead grass from evergreen ones.


Fruit and Vegetable Garden


December

There’s not a lot you can plant out in December but if you’ve not got round to it, you can plant out garlic direct. Onions sown towards the end of the month will make excellent plants and bulbs, sow them in seed boxes or as modules, in the greenhouse.

Perhaps turn the compost heap over and ensure compost bins are covered to prevent excess rain leaching the nutrients.

Take hardwood cuttings of soft fruit. Gooseberries, red, white and black currants, worcesterberries, jostaberries and vines can all be propagated by cuttings inserted in the open ground now and it’s a good time to split rhubarb.

Cut down canes of autumn-fruiting raspberries and burn to prevent fungal diseases spreading.

Successional sowings of winter salads can continue. Ventilate the Greenhouse on warmer days to prevent moulds getting established.

Winter brassicas such as Kale, cabbage and cauliflowers are best harvested when ready.

Don’t forget Brussels Sprouts. Start picking from the base upwards, leaving the smaller ones at the top to developLeeks should now be ready, Any carrots left should come up to prevent pest damage. Parsnips and Swedes can be lifted.

January

January is generally a very cold month with often hard frosts freezing the ground.

There’s nothing to sow or plant outside with the possible exception of garlic even shallots. Start off tomatoes and aubergines in a heated propagato and sow onions.

Order seed Potatoes, for early chitting, and grow early potatoes in the greenhouse.

Prune apples and pears as they’re dormant, but not stone fruits such as cherries and damsons. Bare rooted trees and bushes can still be planted until March.

Ventilate the greenhouse on warmer days to prevent moulds getting established.

Parsnips and swedes in the ground can come up when you are ready, You may even have some scorzonera roots along with winter radish. Leeks left standing will be fine whatever the weather.

Kale and winter Cabbage at least should be available and brussels sprouts m,ay well go through to March. Celeriac may have stayed in the ground and even Celery may have been kept under a thick mulch.

February

February, being the last of the winter months , often has a sting and ends up being the coldest month.

When you get your seed potatoes put them in a cool but frost free place where they get some light but not direct sunlight. The potatoes will then grow chits to get them off to a fast start when planted out.

If the weather allows, you can direct sow broad beans in February along with early peas a May / June harvest. Conventional advice is often to sow parsnips now. but can be left till March or even April.

Jerusalem artichokes and shallots can be planted now.

Sow summer cabbages such as ‘Greyhound’ and ‘Primo’ as well as turnips and spinach.

There is still time to finish planting fruit trees and bushes, especially raspberries and other cane fruits.

Early this month you can prune apple and pear trees while they are still dormant.

If you are in a sheltered area and grow early flowering fruit trees like nectarines, peaches and apricots, protect the flowers with horticultural fleece against frost.

Rhubarb can be forced, and this will be your last chance to dig and manure before spring.

Wash out pots and seed trays. This years potato bed will benefit from a good application of compost or rotted manure

Leeks may well be standing ready but if a long freeze seems likely you can dig some up and heel them in to dug ground for easy access – unless we have deep snow!

Parsnips and swedes in the ground can come up when you are ready. The cabbage family should be providing some sustenance, such as early purple sprouting broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, beet leaves (perpetual spinach). and chards.

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