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Maintaining your Garden During Winter

Maintaining your Garden During Winter

At this time of year, you could be forgiven for thinking that gardening is completely unnecessary – after all, all of the plants are dormant or dying, and you’re not going to be spending as much time enjoying you garden as you would during summer. What’s the point, then, in spending any time making it look nice?

Of course, while a garden might seem inactive during the season, there’s still a great deal going on beneath the soil. And there are still many steps you might take during winter in order to save yourself an enormous amount of stress when the spring finally rolls around. Let’s examine some of these tasks, and how we might best go about performing them.

Insulate potted plants

Some of the plants you might have in pots in your garden will be especially vulnerable to cold weather. But this needn’t mean you need write these plants off. Keep them covered with a protective wrapping, and place bricks underneath the pots in order to prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged.

Don’t neglect weeding

Unless the conditions are literally freezing, many hardy plants will still grow during winter. And there are few sorts of plants hardier than weeds. You’ll need to therefore keep an eye out for weed activity over the course of the season in order to prevent them from establishing a foothold. The last thing you’ll want to do in spring is to battle an enormous infestation of weeds – especially since, by that time, you’ll have an enormous amount of other work to be getting on with.

Maintain greenhouse heaters

If you’re keeping a greenhouse containing sensitive or exotic plants, then you’ll need to ensure it’s properly heated during winter in order to replicate the climate to which your plants are native. If the heater should fail, then so too shall your precious plants!

Pruning

Certain sorts of tree, like acers and birches, will benefit from a small pruning session in the run up to Christmas. This will help to prevent the sap from bleeding, and stimulate growth when spring arrives.

Be sure to give all of the trees in your garden a look to see whether any need to be adjusted. It’s at this part of year that diseased, dead or otherwise compromised branches should be removed entirely. In the case of smaller trees, you might be able to do this yourself – but in the case of larger ones, you’ll need to call upon a professional tree surgeon. They’ll not only do a better and more thorough job than you, but they’ll do so without putting themselves and the tree at risk!

Protect Alpine plants

After autumn, there may be a large amount of fallen leaves on the ground – which will be particularly injurious to certain sorts of plants which have adapted to alpine environments where this isn’t a problem. Clear leaves away and cover any such plants with a protective cover, so that they can’t become waterlogged. You might wish to transfer these plants to pots so that they can be easily moved to a sheltered area, like your greenhouse.

Water carefully

As we’ve hinted, this is a time of the year where water is a problem – especially if the coming winter is anything like as mild as it was last year. Since the sunlight hours are less plentiful, and the rainfall more frequent, water is more likely to find its way into your garden – and it’s less likely to be removed via evaporation.

This means we need to be especially careful when watering – but we don’t want to avoid watering entirely. Some plants will be more sensitive than others to changes in moisture, so be sure to monitor them carefully for signs of deterioration.

If your lawn is growing atop an impermeable, thick clay soil, then you might find that drainage becomes an issue. If water is allowed to collect in puddles atop the grass, then the grass will suffocate and die, leaving unsightly bald and discoloured patches on your lawn. You might address this problem with the help of a fork or a wheeled aerator, which will poke deep holes in the surface of the lawn and thereby provide a channel for water to drain into.

Secure stored produce against pests

During winter, rodents and other pests will likely be dormant. But you’ll still need to make sure any store of produce you have in your garden isn’t vulnerable to being burrowed into and compromised. Do this during winter, as the weather during winter will chew away at the boundaries of your food storage just as surely as it might the plants in your garden – and it only takes one small hole for a mouse to find their way in and gorge themselves over the winter – leaving droppings and disease in their wake. What’s more, you might not realise the damage is being done until you check the store in spring!

Insulate outdoor taps

In freezing weather, outdoor taps are particularly vulnerable to bursting – and so it’s worth insulating them. This will save you a great deal of money in repairs, as it’ll reduce the stress on the piping, and allow you to access water during winter. If you’ve got a pond with fish in it, you’ll want to be sure that it doesn’t freeze over and kill them all – fortunately, this doesn’t happen completely overnight, and so keeping atop the problem will help to safeguard your fish.

In conclusion

When you’re taking action in winter, you’ll need to be aware that some plants will cope better with the season than others. Sensitive plants will not only need to cope with the rigours of the season – they’ll also need to deal with competition from their hardier neighbours. This means that you’ll need to be aggressive when dealing with the spread of those hardy plants – control their spread, and you’ll help to maintain the balance of your garden. Leave them to run unchecked, and the result will surely be an unsightly mess.

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Phoebe Skinner

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