If you have a garden but don’t enjoy gardening, winter comes as something of a relief. Finally you can sit back and forget all about the garden, because during the winter months you don’t need to do anything in your garden, right?
Well no, not quite.
The secret of a spectacular garden in spring is to treat it well over the winter. By keeping up with a few simple activities in the garden over winter, you are literally laying the foundation for a spring garden that not only looks better, but is easier to maintain.
Here are ten things to do to get your winter garden ready for spring.
Once winter comes, it’s important to clear up all the debris from the autumn season. This doesn’t sound much like fun, but can easily be done in a weekend, or even a day. Just try to focus on three things:
As well as the drastic cut back we just looked at, also take time to check individual plants as these may need more tailored pruning, and flowering plants may need deadheading. Careful inspection of individual plants will also enable you to remove any parts of the plant that are showing signs of decay or fungal growth.
If you have plants that are more delicate, you may want to protect them from the extremities of winter weather either by covering them with plastic or fleece sheeting, or perhaps moving some indoors.
Compost is rich in nutrients and an excellent nourishment for soil. It usually comprises a mixture of recycled organic materials such as leaves, old plants, grass, and food scraps.
Compost is easy to make and takes around 6 months to mature. All you need to do is to obtain a compost bin and into this mix a variety of ingredients, ideally a 50:50 mix of green and brown materials, to provide a good balance of nitrogen and carbon.
Examples of green and brown materials to include in compost are:
You can also use autumn leaves in compost or store them separately – in either a bin or wire cage – to make leaf mould, which is also a nutritionally rich material to use for mulching – see below.
Whilst your grass won’t need cutting over winter, it still needs a bit of TLC. Grass is evergreen but becomes dormant through the winter, which makes it vulnerable to damage. You can help to preserve it by avoiding excess walking on it, perhaps also putting down a covering such as wood or strong card to protect it.
It is also well worth aerating your lawn using an aerator or garden fork. This enables the soil under the grass to drain freely. Aerating is even more effective if you fill in the resulting holes with compost as this helps to improve drainage.
Earlier we mentioned using leaf mould to mulch your soil. You can also use compost to do this, or bark, manure or grass clippings.
Mulching is the process of adding another layer on top of the surface of the soil. This extra layer makes the soil look better and, more importantly, helps to nourish and protect the soil and enable it to retain moisture. It can also help to suppress weeds. Mulching is particularly important during winter as this will give the nutrients time to break down and enrich your soil, ensuring that it is in really good condition once spring arrives.
Winter is also a good time to make sure that all garden fixtures, fittings and furniture are in as good a condition as they can be. Firstly check all fencing and any outbuildings such as sheds, greenhouses or summerhouses. If anything needs repairing, get it sorted in case the winter weather makes things worse.
Also give your garden furniture a good clean and if at all possible either put it away inside somewhere or cover it up for winter. Wooden garden furniture will benefit from a coat of oil to keep it in tip top condition, and you may also decide to repaint it when the weather becomes milder and dryer.
If you have outbuildings, winter is a good time to give them a good clear out. Yes it might feel a bit chilly, but the activity will soon warm you up, and it’s much better than wasting a warm sunny day inside a musty outbuilding!
So plough in there and get rid of anything you don’t need. Once you’ve cleared away all the junk, you can then organise what’s left so that it is well-stored and easy to find and access when you need it. When spring comes, you’ll be so glad you did this.
Winter is also the best time to check all your garden tools and equipment and ensure that they are all clean and in good working order. So lay everything out and give it a thorough clean to remove dirt and debris. If any items are rusty, this can be removed with either sandpaper or a wire brush.
If you find anything that needs fixing, for example loose handles or screws, do the job now whilst you think about it. Otherwise when you come to use that tool it will let you down, which will be frustrating. And it’s also worth taking the time to sharpen any blunt tools with a metal file or sharpening stone.
Finally, gently oil the surfaces of your metal tools. This will help to protect them and extend their life.
Winter may not be the obvious time to plant things, but there are actually a variety of plants that can be grown over winter, both inside and out. A few examples are:
So if you have a bit of spare time on your hands over winter and want to make a head start on populating your garden for spring, consider doing a bit of planting.
If you enjoy wildlife in your garden, don’t forget them over winter. Many small mammals such as hedgehogs, dormice and bats hibernate over winter, so keep a careful eye open for them while you are clearing in case they have decided to choose your garden to hibernate in.
If you have birds in your garden it’s particularly important to help them find food and water throughout winter. You can leave out nuts, seeds and fat balls for them to eat, and also make sure they have access to fresh water. Water is really important for birds not just for drinking but also for them to clean their feathers so that they remain waterproof and help to keep them warm.
Taking care of wildlife and birds during the winter months can reap dividends in spring if they decide to stay in your garden. So also make sure that you have clean nesting boxes at the ready, and hopefully you will see some new arrivals in spring.
We hope that this article has given you some ideas and inspiration to get your garden sorted this winter. And when spring comes, you’ll be glad you did!
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