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Prepare your garden for winter

Prepare your garden for winter

Well, winter is truly on its way. It’s dark by 4:30pm, there’s a constant chill in the air and if it’s not actually raining at this exact moment, the threat of it hangs heavy. Understandably, many of us prefer to stay warm at this time of year but when it comes to the wellbeing of your garden, it’s well worth braving the chill. A few hours of hard work now can protect all the effort you put in over last spring and summer.

Here are a few things you can do to prepare and protect your garden over winter...

Image credit: Bill Smith. CC

Image credit: Bill Smith. CC

Protect the soil 

When the temperature of the soil drops below seven degrees Celsius, the amount of biological activity going on beneath the surface drops off too. All that it needs to keep your entire garden in good health is for you to give it a bit of a helping hand.

One of the best things to do is to sow 'cover crops' such as hairy vetch or cereal rye. These enrich the soil with nitrogen, protect it from erosion and increase its content of organic matter, all of which will boost your flowers and plants next spring.

 

Image credit: Jinx McCombs. CC

Image credit: Jinx McCombs. CC

Spring clean the greenhouse

Now is a great time to get your greenhouse in order. Start by temporarily moving your pot plants outside, then sweep out all the debris inside. Next, disinfect the floor and glass panels to help keep your greenhouse plants free of disease. Then just ventilate it well until it dries off and settle your pot plants back into their favourite spots.

While not absolutely necessary, it is also a great time to reorganise your tools and go through any packets of seeds you might have stuffed into cupboards. Go on… make that extra effort!

Image credit: Jennifer C. CC

Image credit: Jennifer C. CC

Clean rainwater butts

If you’re savvy enough to collect rainwater, then winter is the best time to drain your rainwater butts and give them a thorough clean. This is because a rain-swept winter will offer plenty of opportunities for refills before your thirsty plants start to demand that water in the spring and during the summer too. 

Scrub the insides well to remove any algae before lining with greenhouse disinfectant. Finally, rinse well with a hose.

Pack away furniture

Garden furniture can be expensive and valuable. For this reason, taking good care of it to mantain it as long as possible makes complete sense. You can start off by packing it away when you’re not using it to keep it in good state. Wash and dry your garden cushions thoroughly, then store them in a dry place to prevent mould and mildew accumulating. If you’ve got the space, wicker, raffia and solid wood furniture should spend the winter under some form of shelter, ideally in a shed or garage.

 

Image credit: Kalle Gustafsson. CC

Image credit: Kalle Gustafsson. CC

Look out for hedgehogs 

Your garden may become a winter home to all kinds of critters and creatures, so be careful with that spade! Spare a thought for hibernating hedgehogs and check through piles of leaves or logs before you move them around or burn them.

Image credit: Graibeard. CC

Image credit: Graibeard. CC

Plant winter veg 

Finally, remember that your garden doesn’t have to lie in a dull, inactive state over the winter months. There are plenty of plants and crops that are keen to get started early. Sow them now and you’ll be rewarded by flourishes of spring colour and even some early harvests of fresh produce.

You can also use the greenhouse to plant winter salads such as winter gem, land cress and corn salad, along with herbs such as basil, dill and parsley. Garlic and some overwintering onion sets are hardy enough to be planted until late in the year. You can also plant rhubarb, asparagus and some varieties of broad beans.

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