Winter is in full swing with snow usually on the horizon. There will be a few gaps in the frosts and rain where the ground will be workable, or if you’re planning a day of gardening wack down a sheet of polythene on the soil. This will warm the ground and stop the frost forming on the soil, digging on frosted soil can damaged your soil structure and is hard work, avoid if possible.
July is the time to get those dormant deciduous plants in, you can do it in August too, but get them in before the soil starts to warm and roots start to grow. Planting now gives you reduced root disturbance, so your plants are ready to sprint off at the start of spring. So what can you plant? Anything without leaves (or flowers)! Fruit trees, deciduous trees, roses, fruit bushes etc.
It is also the month to start pruning, this month you can prune fruit trees, grape vines, wisteria and deciduous fruit bushes. Before pruning each plant clean your secateurs / loppers with methylated spirits and sharpen them. There are a few plants that need a certain method of pruning like Wisteria, but the aim for most is the same. Prune out dead or diseased branches, remove crossing branches. Find out what year of growth your plant fruits or flowers on, as this will inform you if thinning is necessary. In the end, for shrubs and fruit bushes, you will want a bowl shaped open centre which will let sunlight in.
This month we will be graced by the beautiful snowdrop. Snowdrops daintily sit under the bare branches of trees. Planting snowdrops ‘in the green’ gives them more chance of getting established than planting in bulbs in Autumn. Plus you get instant flowers. Plant snowdrops under deciduous trees where they will receive lots of light in winter and lots of nutrient rich leave mulch. At this time Snowdrops are accompanied by the cheery winter aconite, the bright yellow flower looks up to the sky as a beacon to those pollinators that do not hibernate. Winter aconites are also a bulb and enjoy the same conditions as Snowdrops. Haven’t got a deciduous tree? Why not plant a Witch Hazel (Hamamelis). Hamamelis are a small tree that eventually get to 4m x 4m, they have a graceful spreading habit with broad delicate light green leaves, perfect for giving dappled shade. Their main appeal are their unusual flowers which resemble paper quills, they flower late winter giving a beautiful perfume. They flower the same time as snowdrops, winter aconites and hardy cyclamen, planting them together’s a no-brainer.
If you’re like me you’re busy planning for Spring, what you’re going to put where and what was successful last Spring and Summer. You may be trying to think of ingenious ways to make the most of the space available. Perhaps even planning on turning your lawn into a mini vegetable farm. It’s well worth while to take the time to think about it now and find those varieties that might succeed in that difficult shady patch. Or take time to discover the principles of permaculture or dabble in hydroponics.
Even though we will soon be on the Spring side of Winter don’t forget those essential winter jobs of knocking snow from evergreen plants and placing a ball in fish ponds to keep them completely freezing over. Keep doing a great job of feeding the birds, by refilling and cleaning feeders. It is important to clean feeders to keep bird diseases down. Put pots on pot feet or bricks to increase drainage.
Hang in there, spring will be here soon, use the extra time to enjoy the winter weather if you can, it too has its perks. Any instagrammers will know that a sunny winters day makes winter look great.