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Now that Halloween is over, there’s no excuse for leaving those cobwebs and decaying plants on display. So instead, look at our monthly checklist for maintaining your backyard, garden or balcony in the next three winter months. Two main things must happen as the wet weather and dark hours creep in. First, it’s time for the great big winter tidy-up and the patient planting for spring.
As plants start to turn colour, die down and shed their leaves, the autumn glow could quickly turn into a slippy ground sludge. You’ll also need to lift unwanted plants and replace them with new varieties for the spring.
Critical tidy-up tasks in November include the following:
● Clear off the last of the late summer weeds
● Rake the last of the autumn leaves and add them to the compost
● Remove annuals that have died down
● Cut back perennials
● Prune back all your rose bushes. Ensure the fallen leaves of roses affected by blackspot are gathered separately into a bin and not left to mulch so they don't carry the disease back into the soil
● Cut back creepers from their supports, such as morning glory, thunbergia and other annual climbers, that have started to wither
● Clear back, deadhead and clean up spent sections of your Dahlia bushes. If it's mild, you can still get another crop of flowers. After the frost arrives, lift dahlias into the greenhouse or indoors to dry out.
As you clear back, you should also be harvesting seeds and cuttings for new planting projects.
● Consider sowing seeds harvested from berry-laden trees and shrubs
● Harvest what's left from fruit, gourds and tomato plants. Clear out the vegetation altogether for adding to the compost heap.
Once you’ve cleared up enough of the debris and reclaimed some ground or pots for replanting, review the garden to make changes for next year.
● Start researching plants for next year and send off for seed catalogues
● Bring in plants that need to resume growing indoors as houseplants until late spring.
Begin planting more spring bulbs for early spring colour, such as
● Winter aconites
● Reticulata iris (Iris reticulata)
● Hyacinth and Grape hyacinth (Muscari)
Start sowing hardy annuals to be kept in frames until early spring, such as
● Sow sweet peas for flowers next year
● It is an excellent time to start planting bare-root shrubs. This includes hedging, roses, and trees before the weather turns too cold to work outdoors.
Once the ground has been cleared and planted, the next step is to protect it.
● Start mulching the exposed ground along the beds and around plants with compost
● Where there is gravel mulch under alpine plants, refresh the gravel supply
● Lay down a straw path
As the temperatures drop, save what you can for the following year:
● Cut back your dahlia bushes at the first signs of frost. Clean off and keep the tubers in dry compost in a frost-proof location for next summer
● Continue weeding any leftover weeds from the autumn
● Continue mulching what’s left
● Continue lying down straw paths
Once you have cleared out the bulk of any vegetation that needs to be disposed of and composted, you will be left with more room to clear your garden structures.
It's a good time for maintenance of structures in your garden, such as
● Glasshouses, cold frames and sheds
● Check your glasshouse and greenhouse for wintering pests and eradicate them
● It’s a good time to do a winter clean of pots and tools - Wash out empty pots, trays and planters so they will not carry any diseases or pests into spring
● Project work like setting up rabbit fences
Continue planting for spring and even research the new planting you may wish to introduce.
● Finish planting your tulip bulbs if you are planning for more pot locations and displays
● Move any sweet peas that have once germinated to cold frames
● Stuart, planting seedlings to germinate in your greenhouse/glasshouse for early flowers in the new year
Last but not least - Let there be light!
● Remember, it’s Christmas! You may want to start decorating your front garden with outdoor festive lighting. Take a look at these multi-action LED supabright lights or treebright lights.
● Outside of Christmas, consider investing in some outdoor lighting that will make your garden a safer and more attractive outdoor space during the darker months.
January is a good time for resolutions and taking stock in the garden as elsewhere.
● With the sales in full swing, use January to take stock of what you have and invest in the hardware and outdoor tools you will need. A perfect time to invest and make savings. Check out our lawn & garden range here.
● Start repairs or smaller rebuilding projects, like beds and sheds, before the busy growing season starts so that you’ll be thoroughly equipped for spring.
● On a smaller scale, repair, recycle and recondition any tools you have. Clean, Sharpen tools and remove rusty buildups on your metal implements
● Don’t forget to take out your Christmas tree and garlands - recycle for firewood, kindling, mulch or composting
● Keep an eye on your creepers and climbing roses that may still be growing, especially the odd winter rose - keep deadheading and pruning where needed
● Keep an eye on any other perennials that may need to be cut down and cleared out, removing any debris for composting. If leaves have blackspots or are diseased, empty them into another bin
Plan what you need to source more seeds and cuttings or purchase plants.
● Start mapping out your garden and planning your beds and layouts. Then, plant your vegetable crop rotations
● Check your dormant bulbs and tubers for rot and keep them dry if planting season is still a few weeks away
● You should inventory seeds and order more at this stage in line with your growth plan
● Will you need to source more compost, or are you tending to the compost well over the winter?
● Start preparing the soil, aerating and digging out any vacant plots that need to be ready for sowing.
● Start focusing on germinating more seedlings should you have access to a suitable glasshouse, shed or indoor space for nurturing and storing seedlings
Start planting hardy flowering plants for early spring. The outdoor plants can be planted now as the days get longer.
● Antirrhinums (snapdragons)
● Lily Bulbs
Start planting the following indoors and bring these out later in spring when the weather gets milder.
● Dianthus (Carnations)
● Don’t forget, as the winter months get colder and snow emerges - be sure to mind the wildlife and leave fresh water and seeds out for the birds to keep them going into spring
Do you have more gardening checklists to add to these months? Have you got a tried and tested winter garden checklist that you swear by? Tell us and share your gardening tips on Facebook and Instagram!
Look at our Gardening section for essential hardware and growing supplies.