It may look like nothing much is happening in your garden at this time of year, but in fact the dormant season is the perfect time to get busy. Reflect on the year’s gardening successes and failures, prepare for the season ahead and enjoy displays of evergreens, winter flowers and attractive barks.
Dig over your soil
Springtime will be all about digging and preparing your soil, as long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged after a harsh winter. To ensure your soil is in top shape for the warmer months, loosen it by digging and forking, then remove weeds and add compost or manure to improve the structure. Create a moisture and food reserve for plants and refrain from treading on the ground as much as possible.
Look after your lawn
Your grass will grow at a much slower pace during the winter months, so mow less often and raise the hight of your cut. This is the perfect time to prepare sites for new lawns, as turfs can be laid from late January onwards. If you have drainage problems spot them now and consider how the situation can be improved. Refrain from treading on a frost covered lawn, as this will cause irreparable damage to blades of grass, and will start to look untidy as it thaws.
Cover your crops
It’s not the snow, but the process of melting, thawing and freezing again during the winter season that causes damage to our plants. Therefore, one of the best things to do for your garden is to top it off with mulch or plant it with a cover crop. Decomposed leaves in particular create great mulch. Collect them in a plastic bag and store each year, as you will always need mulch over the winter to add nutrients to the soil and protect perennial plants from the elements. Straw and wood chips can also be used as alternatives to decomposed leaves. Good cover crops include winter rye, mustards and red clover.
Store and protect
Now is the time to drain and store hoses, water cans, sprinklers and terra-cotta pots that have no use during the winter months. If not, the water inside them will freeze, causing them to burst or crack open. Wash out pots and seed trays in preparation for spring sowing and planting, and sharpen up those garden shears. Spades, forks and other garden tools will need a good wash and oiling to prevent rust, and the wooden handles can be cleaned and protected with linseed oil. You may also want to bring some of your plants inside during the winter to protect them against the elements and brighten up your home.
The big clean up
Winter is the perfect time to give your garden a thorough tidying up. Remove fallen branches, sticks and debris from beds, paths and lawns – especially material that’s affected by wet winter weather as this could cause damp problems to underlying plants. Prune and shape those shrub roses, removing branches that are dead or diseased. Spruce up your garden path by giving it a good sweep and clearing away moss, lichen and weeds to make space for the new season.