Gardening Column

This winter has been very unusually mild and short so far, as many early signs of spring have shown. From daffodils and some rhododendrons blooming in the middle of December, to a few dandelions poking their heads in the verges and the odd hawthorn leaf appearing; events I can’t ever remember happening so early in winter! Let’s hope no extremely harsh frosts happen now, as this would be rather catastrophic for all the tender shoots that seem to be developing so early. Keep an eye out for forecasts of heavy frosts and protect as much as you can by mulching or covering. Ensure your pots are lifted off the ground, to stop them getting water logged and freezing the roots.

Although it’s almost impossible to be in the garden on days such as we’ve had over the last few weeks, where the unusually large amount of rain has prevented us from going outside, there is much we can still be doing to ensure a wonderful spring, summer and autumn garden. By doing research and planning, using the internet, books or magazines, and by perusing the many gardening catalogues that come through our doors, we can contemplate what we will grow next year; which plants, that haven’t thrived in the past, to move or remove; what needs repairing; do we want to redesign whole areas; can we take a bit of lawn out to make room for fruit and vegetables; are we getting too old for intensive gardening and need to redesign? The list is endless and not only does it help us improve our gardens, but it also gives us a wonderful opportunity to dream of sunny days in the garden.

Apart from dreaming, there are many practical jobs that need to be done too; here is a list of some of them:

  • Now is the time to prune wisteria, grapes and cut down tall stems of buddleia, shortening them to low-growing emerging shoots
  • towards the end of the month prune summer-flowering Clematis
  • trim winter-flowering heathers as the flowers disappear, to prevent the plants becoming leggy
  • start off sweet peas, chillies and tomato plants on a sunny windowsill
  • divide congested herbaceous perennials
  • start cutting back deciduous grasses before new growth emerges
  • plant Lilies and Allium bulbs.
  • plant bare root roses in a sunny position
  • lift and divide snowdrops still ‘in the green’ if you want to move them or create more plants
  • hardwood cuttings taken last year may need potting on now.
  • pot on rooted cuttings of tender perennial plants taken last summer.
  • cut autumn-fruiting raspberry canes to the ground to stimulate new canes, which will fruit in the autumn. Cut the tips of summer-fruiting raspberry canes that have grown beyond the top of their supports; cut just above a bud.
  • prune apple trees and pear trees whilst they’re still dormant. Leave plum trees, cherry trees and apricots until the summer as pruning these fruit trees now will make them susceptible to Silver Leaf disease.
  • chit potato tubers

By Kathy Fairweather

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