Winter is normally a quiet time in the garden but it won't be long before spring arrives and you’ll be caught up in the frenzy of seed-sowing, growing, and nurturing your garden as it comes to life! Getting your garden in order early will help make the spring a little less hectic.
This is the perfect task for a wet and windy day! Summer-flowering bulbs such as Lilies, Gladiolus and Ranunculus can be planted in early spring for a colourful summer display. Browse our catalogue or website for inspirational new varieties of seeds and bulbs to plant and grow this year. For more information on planting bulbs take a look at our How to plant bulbs article.
Have a general tidy up and remove leaves and other debris from your flower borders, lawns and ponds. You can cut back the old dead growth of deciduous grasses and herbaceous perennials now, although if you’d like to be wildlife friendly then its best to leave the tidy up until early spring. If the soil is workable you can dig a 5cm layer of organic matter such as well-rotted manure, compost or recycled green waste into empty garden borders.
Wash your greenhouse before spring arrives! Before long your greenhouse will be home to trays of seedlings and cuttings. Sweep out any plant debris on the floor and benches and disinfect with a hot solution of garden disinfectant such as Jeyes Fluid. Make sure you disinfect the inside of the glass too - overwintering pests and disease can survive in the smallest nooks and crannies. Whilst you’re there, wash pots and seed trays to help prevent diseases such as ‘damping off’ infecting your young plants. Ventilate your greenhouse well over the next couple of days so it dries thoroughly.
In January and February you can start to sow seeds of plants which require a longer growing season, such as Geraniums (Pelargoniums), Begonias, Antirrhinums, Peppers and Aubergines. They’ll need to be grown in a heated propagator or similar to ensure good growth. For more seeds to sow in January and February take a look at our In the Garden this Month page. For help and advice about how to sow seeds take a look at our handy seed-sowing guide.
Hunting down and removing hibernating pests now can save a lot of trouble come spring and summer. Take a closer look at the crowns of your perennial plants and you may find slugs, snails and aphid colonies sheltering for the winter. If you still haven’t cleared last year’s pots of summer bedding then do this now and be on the look-out for the white vine weevil larvae, which live in the compost and feed on plant roots. Destroy any you find and be prepared to treat for vine weevils this year, using parasitic nematodes or chemical drenches.
Install water butts in your garden now to collect seasonal rainfall. Not only does this help the environment but rain water is good for watering ericaceous plants such as Camellias, Rhododendrons and Blueberries (tap water is often slightly alkaline). When installing a water butt make sure it’s positioned below a downpipe to make the most of the rainfall.
If you have a badly placed deciduous shrub then now is the time to move it whilst it’s dormant. Choose a still day to prevent the roots drying out. Take a wide berth around the shrub when digging it up and try to take as much of the root ball as possible for the quickest establishment in its new location. When planting shrubs in their new position, place them at the same level they were previously in the soil, and remember to water them in well afterwards.
Although it’s cold outside this is the ideal time of year to get those niggly little jobs out of the way! Any broken structures or tools are best fixed now so you have more time to spend in the garden during spring and summer. Treat your wooden garden structures with a wood preservative during dry periods.
Give your tools a clean and a sharpen! Caring for your garden tools not only helps preserve them, it saves you money in the long run and helps prevent the spread of disease. Dirty secateurs may introduce bacteria and fungi to fresh pruning wounds. Sharpening your tools will also improve their performance; they’ll be easier to work with and will give cleaner pruning cuts.
If you haven’t already then try setting up a compost area in your garden. This could simply be a ready-made compost bin or you could build a compost bin yourself using spare bits of wood. Not only will you have somewhere to put your garden waste but your plants will benefit from the rich compost created when it all breaks down! Make sure you have a good mixture of grass clippings, vegetable peelings, paper and woody prunings. To help the process along you’ll need to turn your compost with a garden fork each month to keep it aerated.
Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.