Jobs to do in the Shrub and Tree Garden in Late Winter
Jobs to do
Preparing the ground for planting
As you may still have heeled-in plants to put in or may be expecting new arrivals in early spring, such as evergreens, the ground will need forking and dressing with bonemeal. If it is still hard with frost, covered with snow or sodden, wait until soil conditions improve.
It is rather late to do basic digging, unless it is of ground in which you intend to plant tender shrubs in mid- or late spring; the two- to three-month gap in that case will be sufficient to allow the soil to digest the organic matter and other nutrients added and settle down again.
Although late autumn and, to some extent, early winter, are the best times for planting,woody plants (unless tender) can be put in at any time when dormant. The only restrictions are the state of the soil and very bad weather. If you do plant now, make sure those that need it are firmly supported and protected against prevailing winds which, with the change of season in a few weeks’ time, will begin to blow with gale force strength.
Soil that is proved by a soil test to be very acid in its reaction can be treated by liming so that it becomes only slightly acid. This degree ofis probably the most suitable one for growing the widest range of woody plants; tree fruits, the ericaceous plants such as rhododendrons and most of the heathers, in particular, do not do well on or those with a markedly alkaline reaction. If you have a choice, choose a neutral to mildly acidic soil when planting.
Be very careful not to overlime, as reduction ofis a slow and difficult process; from the soil-testing kit you will know the quantity to apply, depending on the degree of acidity. Ground limestone or chalk are slow acting and can be used at up to 1kg per square m (2 lb per sq yd), though this amount is a rather heavy dressing.
Do not apply lime until at least six weeks have elapsed since the application of organic matter and do not apply at the same time as sulphate of ammonia, basic slag or super-phosphate.
Routine checks of protections of various kinds, supports and ties are advisable some time in late winter. Bark gnawing may still be a serious potential problem, as the animals get hungrier towards the end of winter.
The only plant which can be multiplied now is the grape vine and then only if you can supply warmth. The hard-woodmade in early winter can be used to supply 5cm (2in) lengths of shoot, each with a bud or ‘eye’ on it. The cutting is pegged down into cuttings compost in a 7.5cm (3in) pot. In a temperature of 10-15°C (50-60°F) and with bottom heat of 21°C (70°F) supplied to the compost rooting will take about three weeks.
Treating pests and diseases
If you propose to use a tar-oil winter wash onin winter, to cut out some of the summer spraying and to clean the trees of mosses and lichens, it should be applied early this season, as it damages leaves and young shoots which can soon start to appear. , and may need a fungicidal spray against leaf-curl, put on just before the buds sprout and repeated two weeks later to cover the young developing leaves.