Have a merry gardening Christmas!
Winter is well and truly with us now and where we are in north-west Lincolnshire, we’ve had several frosty days with night temperatures down to -3C and a good dollop of snow last weekend. As I look out of my office window while writing, the garden is completely frosted over and looks great!
For Jill and I, November has been a busy month with lots of talks to garden clubs, WI’s and U3A groups. We both enjoy giving talks and it’s lovely to meet and catch up with gardening friends. We’ve now finished until mid-January, which hopefully gives us time to catch up on some other work at home, although with Christmas less than three weeks away, I’m not sure how much we’ll actually get done!
In the garden we’re concentrating on the back garden at the moment. Clearing some old shrubs and pruning others to rejuvenate them. We’ve also taken the difficult decision to remove a large birch tree. Birch are one of my favourite trees, but unfortunately, this one has been badly pruned in the past and looks dreadful in winter when the leaves have fallen. It’s also got lots of dead branches (caused by the pruning), so last week it was felled. However, it wont go to waste as the timber will be logged, small branches used for kindling and the brash as pea sticks or chipped and used as mulch. Plus, to replace it, I’m going to be planting another three trees in the garden, one of which will be a multi stemmed birch.
We’ve also started to create some new beds and now the birch is down we can complete that work, hopefully this side of the New Year ready for planting in early spring.
In November I also had the pleasure of hosting the RHS Peat-free and Sustainable Growing Conference in London a few weeks ago. This was to help nursery growers with their transition to being peat free. For us home gardeners, the peat ban is due to come into force at the end of 2024, although it’s not gone through parliament yet. I get asked lots of questions on how to use peat-free compost when I’m out and about giving talks and to try and help gardeners, I will cover this subject on one of our Pots & Trowels videos and also on our new Podcast in early spring. I’ll let you know more in a future newsletter.
But for now, keep warm and have a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas break.
With our best wishes
Martin & Jill
Jobs for December
To add some winter colour to your patio or front doorstep over the festive period and beyond, there’s still time to plant up a container with a selection of hardy plants to give winter colour and interest. In garden centres you’ll find a selection of colourful evergreens, plants with berries and attractive stems that will make a great display.
Make sure any border-line hardy plants growing in pots such as agapanthus or shrubby salvias are protected by standing them close to a warm wall or cover them over with fleece when the temperatures drop below freezing. Better still, bring them into a cold greenhouse or porch.
Foliage houseplants can be given a winter MOT to help keep them healthy during the short days. Trim off any damaged foliage, wipe leaves to remove dust and give a high potash feed such as a tomato fertiliser. This helps to build up the plant’s strength for winter. Stand the plants in good light and water only when the compost starts to dry out.
Make sure outside taps are well insulated to prevent them from freezing during very frosty weather. Strips of bubble wrap are ideal for the job.
If you are buying a poinsettia, remember to keep it warm at all times as they hate being in a cold room or on a draughty windowsill! Protect them on the way to the car, then when you get home stand the plant in a light, warm position and make sure the compost is kept moist, but not soggy.
Evergreen foliage always looks great in the house over the festive season and to make it last and stay fresh for as long as possible, make sure you condition the stems first. After cutting the branches, trim to length and stand them in a bucket of water for 24 hours to fully hydrate, before arranging them around the house.
I like to have a tidy around the borders by the end of the year if possible and any perennials that have died down into a soggy mess are clear and added to the compost heap. Those that are still standing and have seedheads or attractive stems are left to add structure and to provide birds and insects with food and habitat over winter. Come early spring they’ll be given the chop!
Continue to prepare the veg plot for next year by mulching beds and clearing any late weeds.
Hardy vegetables such as kale, Brussels, leeks and parsnips can all be harvested from the garden as you want them or harvested and stored in a cold shed for several days.
For more weekly gardening tips and advice from Martin visit “Pots & Trowels” on Facebook or subscribe on YouTube for free, plus our new weekly gardening podcast available from your normal podcast provider.