Gardening in winter
jobs to do in winter, winter tasks in the garden, winter gardening jobs
When I started From the ground up in early 2016 many detractors suggested that I’d have nothing to do across the winter. They could not have been more wrong. Gardening in winter is not only plentiful, but essential.
Many jobs can be done in winter, allowing more time for essentials in the spring.
Two key winters gardening jobs are pruning back trees, hedges and shrubs, and planting bulbs.
We traditionally think of planting bulbs in September, maybe October. God forbid you forget, you can get away with November. But the cold months are different now to the traditional view; winter does not really kick in until December. And even then, the ground is often warm still, and perfectly OK for planting bulbs.
This coincides with bulbs suppliers reducing their prices, meaning that you can get twice as many bulbs for your money.
There is still that concern that you might not get exactly what you want, so if there is a “must have” selection, order then early and pay the price. Places where any “late red tulip”, or a generic small stemmed daff will do can often be filled cheaply. Just wait for prices to come down. Tulips are able to be planted out later than Daffodills, which can always started in pots under cover. These are ready to be planted out in February – or sink the pot – where there is a gap.
if you are planting 10 tulips or crocus then this will matter little. If you are creating a garden for impact, or developing themes year on year then saving time and money really makes a difference.
For a few years I have coveted Allium Globemaster, with 20cm globes on robust 1m stems. But at £3 to £5 each form many suppliers I could not justify the cost of creating an impact. In the sale this year 10 bulbs cost just £11, a reasonable cost for adding this element into my plan.
But the real gardening in winter is in tree, shrub and hedge care.
Gardening guides suggest that many shrubs require pruning in early spring. Again this is subjective, depending on where you are in the country. And how you define spring.
But lots of trees need attention while the sap is not rising, including Apples. And many shrubs are preferably pruned while dormant. Rejuvenation pruning, where hard pruning back is required after a period of overgrowth or neglect, is best done between November and March. That fits with the majority of definitions of “before spring”.
Examples include Berberis, coloured stem Dogwood, Spiraea, Deutzia
Fuchsia, Corylus, Leycesteria, Philadelphus, Cotinus and Salix.
The only plants that cannot be pruned hard are conifers. These are mostly unable to regrow from old wood.
Deciduous hedges should also be pared back now. This is the ideal time to cut back those hedges that have become ever wider. Prune back to a stouter more rigid frame, so the bush can present a softer more manageable face. This will need trimming as new growth gets to two – three buds. And it should be cut to form an upward slant from a slightly wider base. This slanting or “batter” enables light to reach the bottom, allowing more even growth.
Doing this gardening in winter should leave more time for the spring essentials, like clearing ornamental grasses, and dead heading day lillies; things that cannot be done at any other time.
Restorative or maintenance pruning in winter is done at the expense of future flowering of the shrub, so you could lose some of this year’s flowering. With large shrubs or hedges do it gradually, allowing the chance for recovery. Shrubs should be reduced in stages over two years, and hedges one side at a time, and the height at another time to the sides.
A good feed and mulch will help the plants recover.
Attending to the hedge sides separately means that it still maintains some integrity. When the side cut back in winter has recovered fully, the other side can then be reduced. This may be the following autumn. Otherwise wait until the gaps have filled in.
I have an overgrown elaeagnus that has a few leaves on the very outside of a large empty space. I don’t like it as a hedging plant; it not dense enough. So I am going to cut the outside face back hard.
Hopefully it will become dense enough to work as a hedge for both privacy and security. If not I will replace it completely.