Given kind weather, gardening at this time of year is a particular joy.
I spent a couple of happy sessions having a clear-up in the garden during the Christmas holiday. Close inspection of the first border revealed small tufts of grass & baby dandelions already growing & looking settled in for the year. However, they’re easily removed from damp soil & it was so satisfying to get rid of them, & its good to get these small tasks done before real growth starts in a few weeks, when there’ll be plenty to do.
More than anything though, it was glorious to be out in the garden again.
My winter tidy-up is not a detailed one, I like a more natural look, & birds are attracted into the garden by seed-heads & the cover of plants for warmth & protection.
Grasses, leaves & garden birds:
Grasses are still looking good, possibly at their best at this time of year, so they’re staying put until they’re past their best. I cut non-evergreens like Calamagrostis acutiflora Karl Foerster down to 4-6in above ground at the beginning of March, just before the new growth starts.
Stuff a chicken-wire cage with swept leaves, a bin bag with holes punched in will also do, & they’ll eventually turn into crumbly leaf-mould. A perfect mulch to improve your soil.
Buy supplies of compost & plant labels ready for seed sowing. Its a good idea to keep compost in the shed or garage, making it warm & welcoming for seeds, it speeds up germination a little. I made my own labels from scraps of wood last year, they just lasted the season, but reduced plastic in the garden.
Keep bird feeders full & a supply of water, these are best sited near the cover of shrubs or trees. How I miss hearing bird song in the garden during winter, but birds are also great little allies for organic gardeners, helping to clear the garden of insect pests & slugs. I’m really hoping for fewer slugs this year.
Check overwintering plants in the greenhouse or cold-frame, snipping away any dead growth & open the door/vents for a while on milder days to let the air to circulate.
Start putting structures in place, trellis, wig-wams etc., ready for vegetables to scramble up later in the year. They help allotments & vegetable gardens to look more interesting, avoiding that flat & empty look at this time of year. I always have an old pair of secateurs with me when I walk the dog, ready for any foraging opportunities.
A few vegetable seeds can be sown in the greenhouse or indoors on a cool, light-filled window sill. Tomato seeds can be sown this month, I germinate them in a heated propagator. Sow lettuces under cover, they like a cool temperature to germinate, making January an ideal time.
I’ll post about sowing chilli seeds later in the month, they need a head-start so they’re fruiting in the long, warm days of summer.
Sow garlic bulbs this month.
Cover vegetable beds with fleece or cardboard to warm the soil, ready for seed sowing over the next few weeks.
Next week’s post is about my garden plans for 2019, including the vegetable garden & good gardens to visit in 2019.
Wishing you a happy, productive time in your garden in 2019.
all photos: Jill Anderson