Gardening Calendar: Gardening Tasks for Mid Winter

Frost and snow prevent outdoor gardening activities, but equipment can be overhauled and plans made for spring.

Many of the coldest days of the year occur in mid winter, and this, combined with snow, rain, icy winds and continuous grey cloud, make outdoor gardening undesirable; nevertheless there are some tasks which must be carried out. However, many of these can be done in the shelter of a shed or greenhouse.

Lawn maintenance

The lawn requires little attention in mid winter. Keep off it entirely if the ground is waterlogged or frozen. If water is not draining away quickly from port of the town, wait until it does eventually dry, then dress with coarse sand and aerate the surface with a hand fork, treading as lightly as possible. Although late, turfing is still possible in fine weather.

Routine jobs

Using a mild detergent, wash old pots and plastic seed trays to destroy fungal diseases. Treat wooden trays with wood preservative (but not creosote). Sharpen cutting tools — such as secateurs, shears, knives and lawnmowers — or take them to a service centre for sharpening or repair.

During fine weather, check all fences, gates, trellis, pergolas and other timber structures for rotting or breakages. If they are weak, repair them immediately — a heavy snowfall or high wind may bring them down. Treat all bare timber with wood preservative, applying several coats if necessary.

Paths and paving may also need attention. Heavy manual work is actually less exhausting on a fresh winter day than it is on a humid summer one, so dress up warmly and get on with the tasks you’ve been putting off.

Mail-order catalogues become available in mid winter and the dark evenings are a good time to plan your year’s requirements. Order vegetable and flower seeds, gladioli corms, onion sets, shallots and other plants — varieties in short supply may be sold out unless you order in good time.

Garden borders

Regularly check all plants stakes and ties, especially after windy or snowy weather, securing or replacing them as necessary.

After hard frosts, check newly planted perennials, biennials and heathers — if they haven’t grown good anchorage roots, frosts can lift them out of the ground and they will need re-firming.

Fork over the surface of the soil between the plants and turn in any annual weeds which may have appeared since the autumn clearance. Be careful not to tread on the dormant crowns of plants which have been cut right down.

Cut or snap off any remaining dead stems of herbaceous perennials. On light soils the tops pull away cleanly if the ground is frost-bound and you may prefer to do all your border clearing at this time of year rather than in the autumn — although the dried out tops won’t make good compost.

Shrubs and hedges

Roses, shrubs and deciduous hedging plants may be planted if the soil is fairly dry, but not if it is wet or frosty. If bare-root plants are delivered to you when the ground is unsuitable for planting, keep them temporarily in a frost-free shed with straw or sacking packed around the roots.

Thin out dead and diseased branches from established shrubs and trees. Winter prune wisteria by cutting back to within 7.5cm (3in) of the old wood all young shoots not needed to increase the plant size. Apply a generous mulch around rhododendrons.

Plants usually survive under a complete cover of snow, but heavy snow can break branches, so brush it off them with a soft broom.

Plant of the Month

hamamelisThe Christmas rose (Helleborus niger), with its white or pink-tinged, 5-13cm (2-5in) wide flowers, is a real gem in mid winter. The flowers are long-lasting and cold-resistant, rarely being spoiled by bad weather. But in exposed gardens protect the opening buds with cloches from early winter if you want perfect blooms for cutting.

Other mid winter flowers

There are several flowering shrubs which will enliven the mid winter garden. These deserve a position where they can be seen from indoors.

Chinese witch hazel (Hamomelis mollis) makes a large shrub, or small tree with age, and its leafless branches are decked with clusters of fragrant, golden or sulphur-yellow, spidery flowers. For a similar effect, try the fragrant, yellow wintersweet (Chimononthus) or the cornelian cherry (Corpus mas) with clusters of tiny yellow flowers.

The silk tassel bush (Garrya elliptica) is an unusual wall shrub, producing masses of silver-grey catkins which are eye-catching after a white frost or sprinkling of snow. Crocus tomasinianus is one of the earliest crocuses, giving a pretty show of slender lavender blooms beneath the winter-flowering shrubs.

18. June 2011 by admin
Categories: Garden Care, Garden Management, Lawns, Plants | Tags: | Comments Off on Gardening Calendar: Gardening Tasks for Mid Winter

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