I love this time of year! I look forward to seeing the beautiful, diamond like sparkle of the first frosts glistening in the morning sunlight. There are lots of lovely things you can do now, both indoors and out, to ensure that your garden is in tip-top condition, with lots of wonderful new plants that you can look forward to growing next year! Make the most of any bright sunny days, wrap up warmly, and get outside and enjoy your garden or allotment!
Prepare new borders now. Digging improves aeration and drainage, leaving the soil drier than it was before, so it’s a good idea to complete this task before springtime. Adding well-rotted manure to your garden now will allow it to be further broken down by frosts and rain, saving you some extra work.
It’s important to remove the roof nets from fruit cages over winter; snow may rip or damage your net, and can often bring the whole fruit cage down. Removing the net also allows the birds to pick off any pests that had been protected by the cage, helping you, and giving the birds access to an extra food source at a time when food is scarce.
If you would rather be indoors, there’s many lovely jobs you can do inside now: you could sow cress, sprouting seeds and herbs. You could plant indoor Hippeastrum – sometimes mistakenly known as Amaryllis. Sow Cyclamen, Antirrhinums, and Begonias in a heated propagator, or create a beautiful bottle garden or terrarium.
To grow the largest onions for exhibition, you really need to sow seed now, many giant onion seed varieties are available; Mammoth Improved and Kelsae are two varieties which will produce huge onions, if started early enough.
Plant Lily and Tulip bulbs outside now. Sow Sweet Peas in deep, tall pots or Rootrainers® in a sheltered spot outside or in a cold frame. If you didn’t plant all of your spring bulbs last month, do get them planted now – they won’t keep forever! Make use of containers if you can’t plant in the ground.
If you’re looking for a weekend project, why not build a hot bed? This is a fantastic use of the heat emitted from fresh horse manure as it rots down, allowing you to grow some early vegetables. You can just create a hotbed heap, but you’ll retain the heat for longer if you create your hot bed inside a make-shift container, such as one made from old pallets or a wooden compost bin. Fill your container with fresh manure, then top the manure with your soil/compost mix, and place a cold frame on top. When you’ve created your hot bed, and have waited two to three weeks for it to cool down a little, you’re then ready to sow your vegetable seeds.
Take cuttings from vines, and prune dormant grapevines now. It is important that grapevines are pruned while they are dormant to prevent bleeding; for the same reason Acers and birch trees should also be pruned now.
Winter prune apple (Malus domestica) and pear (Pyrus) trees, and shred the prunings to use as mulch.
Check tree stakes and ties, replacing any that are tight or damaged. Old pairs of tights or stockings make useful soft ties for use in the garden, their material is strong, yet soft and flexible, so stockings work well when used to secure trees in place.
Put out food and fresh water for the birds. If you are planning on putting up nest boxes, do remember not to site boxes near food sources, as this leads to fierce competition over the nest site, which often results in a few short stays and then the nest box remaining empty.
Carefully ventilate greenhouses and cold frames on sunny days, it’s best to keep the vents closed on damp or foggy days at this time of year.
If you haven’t done so already, remember to insulate garden taps and any exposed pipes.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I hope you can snuggle up indoors planning a wonderful display in your garden or allotment for next year. Make sure you remember to order your seeds and plants for next year! Merry Christmas! If you’re thinking about ordering snowdrops in the green, here’s a list of reputable suppliers.
This article was first published in the mid-December 2013 edition of the Surrey and Hants News Series of newspapers.
Other articles that may interest you……..
To read about beautiful holly trees, please click here.
To find out about the nurseries selling snowdrops ‘in the green’, please click here.
To read about growing Suttons Seeds F1 ‘Bodacious’ Sweet Corn Shoots – fast growing shoots, with an intense flavour that you can sow now indoors, please click here.
To read my long-term review of the BiOrbAir, a specialised terrarium and indoor garden, please click here.
For information on bottle gardens and terrariums, please click here.
For information on buying British-grown cut flowers for Valentine’s Day and other special occasions, please click here.
If you’re looking for ways to protect your plants from slugs and snails, please click here.
To see my trial of miniature orchids grown inside a BiOrbAir, a specialised terrarium, please click here.
If you’re interested in growing fruit trees, you might be interested to read my review of Ann Ralph’s book, ‘Grow A Little Fruit Tree’, if so, please click here.
If you’re looking for ways to make gardening easier, please click here.
If you’re Gardening on a Budget, here’s some tips and advice, please click here.
If you’d like to find out more about Straw Bale Gardening, you might be interested to read my review of Joel Karsten’s book ‘Straw Bale Gardens Complete’, please click here to read my review.
To read my review of Craig LeHoullier’s book, ‘Epic Tomatoes’, please click here.
If you’re looking for beautiful, important and historic gardens to visit in Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex, please click here.