The north wind doth blow … but don’t despair about the snow!
The recent autumn and winter climate has been relatively mild but, as expected, we are now experiencing freezing temperatures and snow. There are still many tasks that you can get on with over winter to protect and prepare your garden for the spring.
Listen to weather forecasts and remember to protect delicate crops. Outdoor containers should be brought inside or wrapped in bubble wrap and placed off the freezing ground, perhaps on a polystyrene tray similar to those you find in pizza packaging. There are always things lying around the house that can be recycled.
Don’t forget that frost is a friend to gardeners, useful for breaking up the soil and controlling hibernating pests. If you have been diligent over autumn, then you will have dug over the soil, leaving it in clods so that frozen pockets can expand and improve the soil texture for next spring. Do not work on wet and sticky soil that may be compacted, destroying air pockets and inhibiting future root growth. Some crops taste better after a touch of frost, such as parsnips and Brussels sprouts, hence why they are traditionally eaten at Christmas. If you have a few left, put on your wellies and venture outside to harvest them now. Clear away any decaying leaves at the same time so that disease does not spread to seedlings later on.
If you are lucky enough to have a few hours of sun to warm the greenhouse, it may be comfortable enough to finish cleaning and preparing seed trays. Dirty containers can harbour pests and disease from last year, so it is best to disinfect them in a very weak bleach solution (1 part to 9 parts water). Old compost can also hide pests and fungus, so it is best to start with new compost in the spring; you could always pick up a few bags when visiting your local supermarket or garden centre. Prepare your equipment, tools, lawn mower etc.
Sort through any old seeds and discard any that are several years old! You could even be very organised and sort the seeds according to sowing dates to save time when you will be very busy over the coming months. Now is the ideal time (whilst you have some!) to order new seeds for the coming season. We are currently updating our website with new and unusual seeds for you to try at www.originaltouch.co.uk
It is a good idea to plan your plot prior to ordering new seeds and plants. You could even use a diary or notebook to record your efforts such as this garden journal – click to view. Gather some old magazines for inspiration and take the time to plan any structures that you had wished for last season. It is worthwhile considering the practices of crop rotation and companion planting, even in a small garden. I will talk about that sometime soon so keep coming back.
Author – Samantha Ford – 01673 866677
Samantha can be booked to give talks to groups on gardening and the history of our food by visiting www.sowwhat.co.uk