Winter might seem like a quiet season for gardeners, but there’s still plenty to do! Even though the midst of winter brings the coldest months, the New Year brings longer days and the garden begins to grow and develop making it the ideal time to start thinking about your upcoming gardening projects. Here are some jobs I like to do during winter that will help keep a keen gardener going until springtime!
Check Plant Support
It’s extremely important to make sure your winter protection, stakes, ties, and supports are still in working order after any severe weather. Check for worn ties and replace or loosen if necessary to allow for new growth in the upcoming spring. You may find it beneficial to get plant support organised earlier rather than later and whilst gardening jobs are at a minimum so that when the growing season begins you can put all of your attention to your crops.
Greenhouse Spring Cleaning
Cleaning out greenhouses and gutters may not be the most glamorous of winter chores, but it is necessary. Cleaning greenhouses, whether glass or plastic, improves the growing conditions for plants significantly. It lets in more light and helps manage pests and diseases by removing algae, moss, and filth. Clean the windows inside and out, to ensure the maximum amount of light can get through, giving your plants the best chance as they start out. But, be sure to move your plants out of the greenhouse to a sufficiently sheltered area before doing to keep them away from any disinfectants or detergents that could harm your precious seedlings!
Clear and Prepare your Vegetable beds
There is no denying that plots tend to become a little unkempt over winter, it happens to the best of us! Clear out old crops and weeds, digging over the soil and mixing in new compost as you go. This will give your new plants the best chance to grow as spring approaches by enriching their growing means with plentiful nutrients. It’s also important to keep an eye on your stored crops discarding any showing signs of rot, disease or deterioration as this could spread onto your new plants.
Plan your crop rotations
For veggie lovers (like me!) setting up an effective crop rotation is vital to producing the best yields. Changing crops annually can help to develop the soil and maintain a healthy balance of nutrients. It’s a well known gardeners trick that helps to reduce the build-up of crop-specific pest and disease issues. Divide your vegetable garden or allotment into equal-sized portions (depending on how much of each crop you wish to produce), and group your crops as required, remembering to keep perennial crops such as Rhubarb and Asparagus separate to your annual crops to ensure little disturbance when it comes to cultivation and planting!
Some traditional crop groupings you might want to try out are:
Fruit Bearing (Tomato, Cucumber, Aubergine, Sweetcorn, Squash, Pumpkin, Courgette)
Root Vegetables (Potato, Carrot, Onion, Garlic, Beetroot, Swede, Sweet Potato, Radish, Shallots)
Legumes (Runner Beans,French beans, Peas, Broad Beans)
Leafy greens (Cabbage, Spinach, Chard, Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli)
Prune and tidy your plants
Most winter hardy plants will need a good prune before spring comes around, meaning it’s time to get your hands dirty! Pruning will encourage new growth and a great way to start is by removing any dead or damaged branches. Climbers such as ‘Wisteria’ will likely have some wispy new growth that need to be kept in check. Prune your roses now whilst they are still dormant, cutting back to just above their buds. You can prune broadleaf evergreens while they are still dormant and it’s also a great time to shape your formal hedges before spring.