11 Winter Gardening TipsSubscribe to RSS
What have you got planned for the garden this winter? No, that wasn’t a typo – I’m talking about winter, not spring. Though it can seem as though there’s nothing to be done outdoors once the weather turns colder, appearances can be deceptive.
There are plenty of jobs to get done in the garden when winter arrives – even planting! I’ve gathered together some of my top tips on winter gardening so that you can help your plants to survive the winter, and thrive when spring arrives.
1. Leave your soil alone
Image Credit: Iwan Gabovitch
If you haven’t already broken up the soil, leave that job until the spring when the weather has warmed up. Soil that has already been frozen will be difficult to work with, and breaking it up now is unlikely to do it any good, anyway.
That said, try not to make your soil any more compacted if you can help it. Avoid treading on soil during winter where possible, and tread lightly if you do need to walk on it.
2. Protect plants from frost
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Bring any containers indoors if possible, or under some sort or shelter if not. Even bringing them closer to your house can help to better protect them from adverse weather.
If you have tender plants in your garden, these should be brought inside or into a greenhouse wherever possible – you may be able to lift tender plants and replant them in a pot for the winter. The RHS offers a helpful guide on lifting tender plants to store them indoors over winter.
For plants that can’t be moved, protect them by placing them under a glass cloche, or laying mulch or horticultural fleece to prevent the soil from freezing.
3. Tidy up
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Not only will clearing away any debris from your garden make it look nicer, it will also help to prevent problems. Old grass clippings and moss on your lawn can lead to disease and encourage weeds to grow; and leaves in your pond can drastically alter the quality of the water, even making it toxic for plants and wildlife that live there.
4. Create a habitat for wildlife
Image Credit: Alistair Young
That said, a little debris in your garden can be beneficial. Leave a few logs in one area of your garden to act as a mini-beast mansion, and ladybirds, beetles, woodlice and earthworms will soon set up home there. This will help to encourage diversity in your garden, which will help your plants to thrive when springtime arrives.
The RSPB offers a helpful guide on building your own insect hotel using everyday items. You could also simply leave a pile of leaves in a corner of your garden, or leave part of your grass uncut. Hedgehogs will appreciate a wooden box lined with leaves for bedding.
5. Get pruning
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Roses, shrubs, fruit trees and deciduous hedges will benefit from some winter pruning. It’s best to do this job on a dry, mild day. Get rid of dead or diseased branches first, then cut back any parts that are overgrown or growing in the wrong direction.
6. Don’t forget your lawn
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Though many of us put the mower away for the winter, the lawn may actually benefit from the occasional cutting. The trick is to keep an eye on the weather – if there are lots of mild days, then the grass will continue to grow. Just make sure that you raise the height of the blades on your machine, and only mow when the grass is dry.
7. Feed the birds
Image Credit: Matt MacGillivray
Winter can be tough for our feathered friends. Making sure that your pond doesn’t completely freeze over will help them to get access to much needed drinking and bathing water; or you could invest in a bird bath if you don’t have the space for a pond.
Food will also be gratefully accepted by birds during the winter, when a meal can be hard to come by. Look for bird feed that contains whole nuts when feeding over winter, or choose fat balls which are particularly good for birds trying to keep warm in the cold weather.
You could even make your own fat cakes if you like. Just add two thirds seeds, cheese, dried fruit, oatmeal, and even cake – in whichever combinations your desire – to one third melted fat, and leave it to set. Before choosing your ingredients, though, do a little research to make sure that they are safe and nutritious for birds.
Not only is it fun to watch birds in your garden, but encouraging them to visit can be beneficial for your plants, as it will help to make the ecosystem more diverse.
8. Get sowing
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There are a few varieties of vegetables that can be sown in winter, even if you don’t have a greenhouse or poly tunnel. Garlic does best when sown in early winter – as long as you plant before Christmas, you should be fine. Sow cloves bought from a garden supplier rather than those bought in the supermarket, which may not be suitable for the British climate.
There are also varieties of lettuce and oriental greens that can be sown in winter. Investing in some horticultural fleece or a small poly tunnel can also increase the variety of plants that you can sow when the weather is cold.
9. Plant herbs indoors
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A sunny windowsill is the perfect spot for herbs, and if you place them into a small pot with drainage holes then your plants should be happy enough to continue offering extra flavour to your meals throughout the winter. Great options for indoor growing are chives, mint, oregano, rosemary and thyme.
There are even a few vegetables that can be grown in containers indoors, such as round carrots and radishes, potatoes, peas and beans, and tomatoes. Mushrooms will grow in a dark cupboard, too.
Make sure that your home is at an appropriate temperature, and do some research to ensure that the variety you’ve chosen can be successfully grown indoors. Find out more in our blog post, here.
10. Do non-gardening jobs
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During the winter months, there’s not as much to do in the garden in terms of taking care of your plants, so it’s a great time to get on with the other jobs that you haven’t had the time to do during the warmer weather. It will ensure that your garden looks great, and that you’re ready to hit the ground running come spring.
• Use a pressure washer if you have access to one, or a bucket of soapy water and a firm sweeping brush if you don’t, to get rid of any slimy patches on your paving slabs.
• Tidy the shed and give it a clean – sweep the floor and wash the windows. Do the same with the greenhouse. It’s also a good idea to use horticultural disinfectant in the greenhouse to prevent disease from taking hold and get rid of pests.
• Clean all of your gardening tools and replace any that are broken. Sharpen any blades that have become dull, and get rid of any rust by scrubbing with a solution of salt and lemon juice and a steel scouring pad. To prevent further rusting, rub your tools with linseed oil.
• Clean out water butts, and clean bird baths and feeders.
11. Plan next year’s garden
Image Credit: DncnH
While your garden is slowing down, and there’s not as much work to be done, is the ideal time to plan what you’re going to do with it in the spring.
Planning in advance not only allows you to get excited about seeing the garden bloom again, but also means that you can figure out how you can rotate your crops to avoid diseases, and make the most of your space. It can also be easier to visualise new ideas when many of your plants are dormant.
I hope that these tips have proved useful. What are you planning on doing in the garden this winter? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Please let me know in the comments below!
Happy winter gardening!