The cold winter months give gardeners a welcome opportunity to catch up with outstanding tasks such as pruning bushes, cleaning tools and maintaining paths and patios, which they may have been too busy to tackle during the growing season. Here are twelve key tasks that you can focus on during the short winter days.
1) Mowing the lawn
Despite the lower temperatures, grass will keep growing during milder winter days, so you may need to keep mowing your lawn regularly. However remember to change the height of the mower blades to avoid damaging the lawn. A good cutting height for the winter months should be between 2 and 4 cms.
2) Protecting patio containers
Now is a good time to protect patio containers with winter bedding plants such as pansies or all year round shrubs from frost damage. You may want to move lighter containers and pots into a sheltered position such as a heated greenhouse or conservatory. Wrapping up containers will keep plants snug and provide protection from cold temperatures.
3) Sprucing up your patio area
Take the opportunity to clean dirt or slime from paving slabs by scrubbing vigorously with an outdoor broom to loosen debris. If a stronger approach is needed to deal with stubborn stains then consider hiring or buying a pressure washer plus patio detergent to blast away dirt, so that your patio area looks like new for the spring.
4) Looking after houseplants
Houseplants will require less feeding and watering in the winter months, but it is important that they are not forgotten completely. Make sure that conservatories are well ventilated by opening a vent on milder days to circulate the air. Ensure that houseplants are positioned where they can get sufficient natural light during the shorter days, for example on a window sill.
5) Pruning shrubs
Now is a good time to prune back deciduous shrubs in the garden, such as roses or fruit such as blackberries, as it is easier to see what you are doing now branches are bare and the plants are dormant.
6) Providing food for the birds
Householders can encourage wildlife into the garden by providing food for common birds such as robins and blue tits. You can set up a bird table on a low hanging bough or buy a bird feeder for nuts and seeds from a local store. Alternatively why not make your own bird cake using fat, nuts and seeds and put this in a yoghurt pot hung in a safe location away from domestic cats?
7) Making a home for mini-beasts
Using freely available natural materials such as logs, you can create a welcome habitat in your garden for mini-beasts such as ladybirds, beetles, earthworms and woodlice. These creatures like to live in a sheltered environment where they can find food. Encouraging biodiversity will benefit your garden, enriching the soil and helping to control pests such as aphids. Children will enjoy watching these creatures going about their daily tasks and will learn about nature in the process.
8) Planning next year’s season
Now is the time to look through seed catalogues and order what you need for the new growing season. It’s a valuable time to reflect on the previous year and decide what to grow and where. Browsing through the brightly coloured catalogues with their photos and descriptions is a real boost at this grey time of year, but take care not to get carried away and be realistic about what you need so that you don’t waste money.
9) Cleaning gardening tools
It’s worth spending time now on cleaning and servicing gardening tools, so that they will be ready to use in the spring. Careful cleaning and oiling can extend the life of metal and wooden tools, saving gardeners money in the long term. Start by scraping off excess mud from trowels and forks, using a stick or a wire brush if necessary.
10) Digging the soil
Digging over the soil is an essential task in early winter and will reward the gardener with improved plant growth in the spring. It’s an opportunity to improve the quality of the soil by adding organic matter, creating moisture and nutrients which benefit plants once they start growing again.
11) Mending fences and other structures
Now is the time to mend fences and structures such as pergolas. You’ll find it easier to strip away the growth at this time of year, enabling you to carry out essential repairs.
12) Tidying up overgrown areas
The winter months are an opportunity to catch up with garden maintenance, by sweeping up leaves and other debris which can damage the lawn. Take care to remove fallen debris from flowerbeds since damp material can affect plants lying underneath.
Catching up on essential winter tasks will ensure that your garden looks its best during the growing season the following year.