23 November 2012

What do you do in the winter?

At this time of year visitors often ask me that question. It's as though they expect me to be packed away for hibernation in a box of clean straw like the Blue Peter tortoise and woken up again in the spring with a slice of cucumber and a rub down with olive oil. Sadly, that's not the case, and neither do I sit out the winter sipping margaritas on a tropical beach (National Trust wages won't allow it).

The truth is, winter is when the real work gets done.

Alan Titchmarsh reckons you shouldn't work in the garden if the soil sticks to your boots but if I followed that advice I wouldn't get anything done until May next year! It can be very wet up here in the winter!

The view from my office window today!
The first job is to work my way through the borders cutting down all the herbaceous plants and pulling out the annuals which have been killed off by the frost. Once they are all cut down it's easy to see which perennials have spread too much and are swamping other less robust plants (michaelmas daisies and yellow loosetrife are the main culprits at Hill Top). It's also easy to see that, as usual, there is too much ladies mantle and half of it needs digging out. Perennials which have been in the same place for too long need to be lifted and split up then replanted to keep them healthy and vigorous.

Winter is the time to prune roses, so those on the trellis and against the house walls get some attention, cutting out old woody stems and tying in the new growth; and while I'm at it the Crimson Glory vine on the back wall of the pub, which can grow up to 20 feet over the summer, will be cut back to its main framework to stop it taking over the garden completely.

It's also the time to prune shrubs. Deciduous ones have dropped thier leaves now so the branch framework can be scrutinized and older growths pruned out to allow young shoots to develop and to keep the plant from getting too big.

The vegetable garden needs digging over and a top dressing of compost or manure, the blackcurrants and gooseberries need pruning and the Autumn-fruiting raspberries need to be cut down and mulched, oh, and the hedge at the bottom of the veg garden needs a good cut back.



Then there are new plants to be bought and planted and next years seeds to be ordered and the greenhouse needs tidying and disinfecting and the mower needs servicing and................where did I put that big cardboard box?!

Words and pictures by Pete the Gardener.