WINTER IN THE GARDEN
As we experience our first proper frosts and a little dusting of snow here are some gardening tasks for days when weather permits.
With outdoor activity often restricted this is a good time to retreat indoors to clean tools, labels, pots and seed trays so that they are ready for use as soon as Spring returns. Not unpleasant with the radio on and a cuppa at hand!
If you sowed sweet peas in Autumn pinch the tips out, just above a leaf joint. This will encourage side shoots to develop resulting in sturdier, bushier plants and hopefully more lovely flowers.
If you've got space in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse, or perhaps in the conservatory or sun room, you can sow onions and leeks from seed in January or February. Sow into multi-cell modules for easy transfer of the seedlings once the weather improves.
Gather up leaves to make leaf mould. A really valuable free product for use as a mulch, as soil improver or add to compost to make a nutrient rich, friable potting mix. Put the leaves into black paper sacks or old compost bags, make some drainage holes and then tuck them somewhere out of sight to rot down for a year or more. If you have space and a lot of leaves to gather then a simple cage made from four posts and chicken wire is ideal. For either method make sure the leaves are wet so they break down more readily.
It's worth a little effort to protect vulnerable decorative pots from frosts, as they are expensive to replace. Often the plants are more hardy than the pots! These can be moved to a cold-frame or greenhouse, but if the specimen is too large to move, wrapping it in a protective layer of bubble wrap, securely tied around the pot, can make the difference.
Winter can seem like the 'quiet' season in a garden but a few jobs done now will reap rewards once the 'busy' season comes around. It's also a great opportunity to plan what new plants or crops you'd like to try next year and consider some re-modelling in the borders.