November and December bring cold weather, wind and rain. Whilst we can snuggle up indoors and prepare for the festive season, our gardens have to tolerate whatever is thrown at them. This makes it an ideal time to brace the winter chill and tackle a final garden clear-up to get everything ready for next year. Read on for the winter gardening checklist.
And should extreme weather hit, we have a few ideas and suggestions on how to protect your garden and house exterior from damage in our how to guide.
Now that most of your plants are finished, fork over empty flowerbeds and vegetable plots and turn some manure or compost through the soil. This increases the nutrient value of the ground ready for new plants to be grown next year. Check that these areas are completely empty before starting as you don’t want to disturb any spring bulbs.
If you have wet, clay soil don’t attempt to dig it now. It’s best left until the ground starts to dry out naturally in March or April at the latest.
Back when the leaves first began to fall in September, we advised clearing them to protect your lawn. November should see the last of the falling leaves, but it remains just as essential to stay on top of their clear up. If they cover the lawn completely and aren’t removed, the grass is starved of light and quickly becomes prone to fungal diseases and bare patches. Garden vacuums and leaf blowers make light work of removing fallen leaves from patios and lawns.
Unwanted leaves can be made into leaf mould - an excellent compost. Place the damp leaves in a black plastic bin liner, tie a knot in the top and fork a few air holes in it. Place the bag in a sheltered position in your garden and leave it for one year. Let the leaves rot down for another year if you want to use it as a soil conditioner.
Save yourself time and money next year by thoroughly cleaning your garden equipment, pots and tools. Doing this will protect against rust and rot, as well as stop any plants being overcome with infection or pests. For more on how to clean tools and plant pots, head to our guide on tidying the garden in autumn.
If you have a greenhouse, now’s a great time to give it a good clean. Pests and diseases can linger in nooks and crannies ready to attack new plants in spring. Apply disinfectant to every surface thoroughly – if your greenhouse stands on hard, bare earth, scrub the disinfectant in with a stiff brush.
In winter, when night temperatures can plummet to below freezing, it’s even more important to care for birds and bugs in your garden.
For bugs - try to leave, or create, a few areas where they can thrive, such as a pile of old logs or rotting leaves. The birds will enjoy these areas too.
For birds – offer much-needed food and water. It’s also a good idea to clean bird baths and drinking water containers every few days. Scrape droppings and old, discarded food off of bird tables and feeders before you add fresh food. With a regular cleaning routine, you’ll be helping your visitors to stay healthy.
For more on how to choose bird food, where to place bird feeders and other information, check out our further tips and ideas.
Once the gardening routine has slowed down outside, you may want to start paying attention to the pots indoors. Decorating your home with festive plants is an ideal way to bring the holiday season to life and poinsettias are a modern Christmas classic.
To keep them looking their best for as long as possible, place them in a warm, bright room that keeps an even temperature. You should also keep them out of any cold draughts. For more help taking care of your poinsettia, read our article packed with useful tips.
Orchids are another popular choice for Christmas. They need a steady temperature of 16 to 21 degrees Celsius and high humidity. This is best achieved by standing the pot on a dish of damp pebbles. Give them a watering about once a week, then let the pot drain. But don’t use tap water - boiled water that’s been left to cool, or better still, rainwater should be used.