There’s lots to do in our gardens in Winter but we can go out with our welly boots in a leisurely way, knowing there’s not much that is urgent.
You can really clean your greenhouse now, washing down the insides of the glass and opening up all of the doors and windows for the frosts to kill any insects. Old grow bags can be composted and tools sharpened.
Everlasting Spinach and Kale can still be harvested, as well as potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes dug up from the ground, or pots emptied, to reveal these golden delights. If you find any green tomatoes these can be made into green tomato chutney and figs into a green fig jam.
Exotic plants like Australian Tree Ferns and Bananas can be wrapped in cloche once you have removed the leaves to stop the frosty air penetrating the cells of these tropical plants. Also pots that might not be as frost hardy as they seem can be wrapped in bubble wrap and stowed away in sheds or in a sheltered part of the garden. If they have tender plants in them, they can be stored in a greenhouse but they will need some watering over the Winter months.
You can keep tidying leaves and can create mounds of them in different corners of the garden to give hibernating hedgehogs and insects a place to sleep and be protected from birds.
Leaves can be composted and it’s best that they have their own separate container as they break down in a different way from other garden and compost waste. By the Spring, depending on the softness of the leaf, they might even be ready for next Summer to put onto the beds. (Oak leaves take forever).
Make sure that there are some containers lying about where fresh water can collect for wildlife. Also resist the urge to prune ivy until later in the Spring, as over the Winter it is a valuable food source for all sorts of creatures.
Outdoor fun with (or without) children
As well as foraging on a country walk, you can collect an assortment of interesting foliage and berries for a front door wreath. Take some gardening wire and use a few rounds to make a sturdy circle of wire. Then you can simply weave in the foliage. Ferns, branches of Yew, Pyracantha berries, Holly leaves and berries, variegated or normal Ivy plus sticks of cinnamon and dried orange slices.
You can forage with the kids or grandchildren and collect leaves, nuts, old pieces of crockery, bones and wood and using PVA glue, stick them onto a wooden board, making a collage that you can then enhance with glitter or paint. Can make thoughtful and cheap Christmas presents as well!
Snail Races, this is only for the brave. Collect some snails with the kids, put them on a path, draw a finish line and yell “Go!” Mesmerising fun, though quite dangerous.
Finally, it is tempting in Winter to snuggle up indoors with the TV but there is nothing more wonderful than toasting marshmallows around an open fire. Print off some carol sheets and start a new family tradition.
If your garden is lacking colour at this time of year, think of introducing some of the great famous hardy Winter plants like witchhazel (Hamemelis), Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox), Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera purpusii) and Winter Cherry (Prunus autumnalis).
What’s On in December
Obviously it is the time of Christmas Fairs. Horsham Sunday Christmas market, the Uckfield Festival of Christmas, Arundel by Candlelight and ice-skating at the Pavilion in Brighton are just a few things to do!
Happy Christmas Everyone and give your back a well-earned rest.
Plant – It’s the right time to plant trees and hedges taken straight from the field. They are normally called ‘bareroot’ as opposed to ‘container grown’. They are half the price and settle nicely into the cool moist earth. It is still ok to order and plant bulbs. The soil is still very warm even if the air isn’t.
Prune – You can prune heavily sapping trees like Birches now and Grape vines before the Winter sets in.
Harvest – the rest of your root crops and lift and store your Dahlia bulbs.
By Andrew Staib, Principal Designer of Glorious Gardens www.gloriousgardenssussex.co.uk/