Early Winter Jobs in the Flower Garden

Jobs to do

Digging

The general digging that was described in late autumn can be continued or started while the weather permits, in early winter; this includes the preparation of beds for herbaceous perennials and borders, sweetpea trenches, sites for spring-sown hardy annuals and bedding and half-hardy annuals to be planted late in spring next year. You can also do the basic digging for a lawn to be sown in spring, leaving the surface rough over winter. It is probable that the weed seeds will not germinate as well in the interim as they would with a summer fallowing, but with a hard enough frost some seeds, especially those near the surface, may be killed.

If you have not already done so, early winter is a suitable time to choose a site for a nursery bed and prepare it. On it you can put a cold frame, a piece of equipment which has all sorts of uses. In order to avoid a lot of fetching and carrying, the nursery-bed should be next to or near the greenhouse. It should also be sheltered from wind, and from the north and east; it should receive both sun and shade. The soil needs to be especially good, well-drained and fertile, as it is to be used for seeds and growing on young plants before they are put into their permanent places. It is a good place to grow flowers for cutting too, so that the border is not vandalized by the flower arranger.

Frames can be used for hardening off plants, for sheltering real exotics during the summer, for containers of cuttings or seedlings or for direct planting. If for direct use, the base of the frame must be well drained. You may need to dig one or two spits deep, put in a layer of drainage material 5 or 7.5cm (2 or 3in) thick, then put on a covering of fibrous peat. Replace with only the topsoil if the subsoil is very heavy, and in that case bring up the level as required with additional compost mixture.

Construction

The shortage of space in many gardens ensures that tiny is beautiful; it is not essential to have lots of ground in order to enjoy gardening. You can get as much, if not more, pleasure, out of a small rock garden and its plants and what a big choice of plants there is, to provide you with flowers all through the growing season. The spring is generally known to be a rock garden’s glory, but you can have a very good display of colour in summer and autumn; there are many small plants normally grown at the front of perennial borders which will (it equally well into a miniature alpine landscape.

The one thing above all else that rock garden plants must have is good drainage: whether you are dealing with a natural slope or producing an artificial mound, make sure that the subsoil is well-drained, mixing coarse grit with it if heavy. If it is really sticky subsoil, such as clay, it will have to be dug out, a spit deep, drainage material put in, and replaced with good topsoil mixed with grit. Ideally, rock-garden soil should be at least 60cm (2ft) deep and a good mixture would contain 3 parts loam, 2 parts peat or leaf-mould and 1 part grit (parts by bulk).

In a well-planned rock garden, the building is done from the bottom up, putting base layers of rock or stone first, adding soil, then planting and finally starting another layer. The rocks should be arranged to look as though they were there naturally and not artificially put into position; this natural look can be partly obtained by making sure the strata of any type of rock all run the same way. Each piece should be set into the soil so that it slopes back slightly, to ensure its permanence in that position and the drainage of rain off it, back into the soil.

When you are placing the rocks, remember that some plants like sun and some like shade, and construct crevices and gullies, as well as plateaux and peaks. The finished article should look as though you built the rest of the garden round it like a natural hump or bank, through which the underlying bed rocks are protruding due to centuries of soil erosion.

Two types of rock, sandstone and limestone, are most suitable and choice of either or both depends on the nature of your soil and therefore the kinds of plants you wish to grow. Sandstone is more likely to be acid in reaction; limestone is definitely alkaline and some rock plants (like other types of plants) are lime-haters. Hence a test of your soil and an hour or so with a catalogue of alpine plants can save you a good deal of money and future frustration.

Turfing

Lawns can be made from turf laid in early winter, as well as in late autumn, if weather and soil conditions permit.

Mowing

Although not generally realized, it is possible to cut the lawn during winter, under certain conditions. It does grow at this time, albeit very slowly, and becomes somewhat shaggy; you can take the top off it to leave it 4-5cm (1-l/2in) long. The best time is the middle of a sunny day, not frosty, and preferably when the ground is as firm as it is likely to be in winter. Wet grass cannot be cut, as it becomes torn, and wet soil is soft, with the result that the mower gouges tracks in it. Top the grass of a lawn seeded in early autumn, if it has not yet been cut.

Bringing plants into light and warmth Bulbs for flowering at Christmas and in mid-winter should be brought out into light as soon as possible, and the Christmas cactus can now come into warmth, whether the greenhouse or the home. This will bring on its flower-buds very quickly; to time flowering to coincide with Christmas Day in the Northern Hemisphere, bring the plants in the second week of early winter.

Breaking ice

If you have a pool with fish in it and it becomes completely frozen over in cold weather, break the ice gently to make a small hole and let in fresh air, and therefore oxygen. Non-tropical fish will be safe in cold weather, provided oxygen is available in the water.

Clearing and tidying

Rake off any remaining leaves from grass, beds, paths and overwintering annuals and biennials, fork up established herbaceous perennial borders and work in a little bonemeal at 90g per sq m (3oz per sq yd) if not done in late autumn. Brush seedling lawns gently.

Cutting back

Continue to cut down the late-flowering chrysanthemums as the blooms finish and put under the greenhouse staging temporarily until they begin to produce new shoots. Keep the compost moist.

Greenhouse and frame management

Be prepared for sudden, considerable drops in temperature at night and boost the heating in the greenhouse as necessary. Cover the frame light on particularly cold nights with sacking or other protective material. Also be prepared to decrease the heating on sunny, calm days and then open the ventilators as well and let in some much-needed fresh air. Wipe off condensation and water plants moderately. Keep house and frame free of dead plants, rotting leaves, and dying flowers and supply final support strings for the corm-grown freesias, which will be coming into flower soon. Primula malacoides and possibly Primula obconica will be flowering in mid-winter, so their buds will be starting to show and they may need a little more water than previously.

protecttion for grey or wolly-leaved rock plants can be provided by cloches of glass or plastic or a frame with sacking on top

Increasing

Cuttings of chrysanthemums which flowered in late autumn may be ready for taking at the end of early winter, though mid-winter is more likely. Shoots will have been produced from below the soil round the old stems, since they were cut back, and these should be used, not the shoots actually growing on the stems, or any produced while the plants were still flowering.

Overhauling machinery and tools

A cold job, but a necessary one, conveniently done in winter, is cleaning and repairing garden tools and equipment. Inevitably, if you leave the sharpening of the mower blades and the servicing of the cultivator, hedge cutter, etc., until early spring, everyone else in the district will do the same and the delay until you get them back from the repair or maintenance centre can mean the ruin of the lawn and failure with crops and flowers for the season.

Hand tools should automatically be cleaned after use during the growing season, but in winter, oiling them is advisable opportunity now to sharpen spades, billhooks, shears – all tools with cutting edges in fact – to straighten teeth, strengthen handles and tighten screws, nuts and bolts. Wheelbarrows in particular take a lot of punishment; oiling the wheels, patching holes in the body and padding the handles are usually the most important attentions needed.

Treating pests and diseases

Slugs are possible round the Christmas rose, so discourage them with 15cm (6in) bands of coarse grit round the plants or with slug-bait. Greenfly, whitefly and red spider mite may be persisting in the snug atmosphere of the greenhouse; either use finger and thumb or an insecticide.

30. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Flower Garden, Types of Gardens | Tags: , | Comments Off on Early Winter Jobs in the Flower Garden

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