The gardening year can pass extremely quickly and in being so busy, this has certainly been the case for me as we approach another festive period. There is still much to do in the garden if you can avoid the extremes of weather.
Late autumn and into winter there are always many leaves to sweep up to prevent yellowing of turf and disease. I have been constructing compost boxes and cages to put the fallen leaves in and in time, they will rot down and make ideal compost for the garden. Borders and shrubberies benefit from the incorporation of leaf mould, which increases the organic and humus content of the soil. A rich organic soil suits most plants and improves the soils ability to retain moisture and nutrients. Refer to my case study on the construction of compost boxes and leaf cages for more info.
Winter pruning of trees and shrubs, as well as some late hedge cutting of Beech and Hawthorn hedges is possible, as they are deciduous, with the leaves long since fallen. It is a good time to assess the shape of trees and shrubs as you can see the branch arrangement, but ensure that any flowering shrubs are pruned correctly, as flowering may be affected the following season. The basics of pruning as I have mentioned in other blogs accounts for the removal of dead and diseased shoots; weak and crossing branches; reduce height and density of growth; stem reduction as in rose and fruit pruning encourages buds, which will hopefully produce flowers and ultimately fruit.
Many plants that are herbaceous and die back require cutting back to ground level; leaving the perennial root system. Many plants are bulbous, have tubers or fleshy roots and these will burst into growth next spring. Most of this material can be mixed with leaves and grass clippings and placed in the compost box and if turned regularly will make superb compost for the garden.
Some gardens are affected by poor drainage; resulting in waterlogged areas of the garden and these areas will be visible after wet weather. As long as the soil is not frozen, you can improve the drainage by digging large holes and filling with rubble and this will hopefully alleviate the situation. Any drains installed must not lead water to adjoining properties, but could be fed in to proper drains, but possibly best to consult a drainage specialist.
I wrote an article for the local Hub magazine recently in which I touch upon suggestion for Christmas presents for keen gardeners. The dark days of winter are the ideal time to plan for what you will do in the garden next year and although I have written articles here on this subject; you could be designing new layouts and features; selecting plants to grow, as well as planning for the construction and laying out of new structures and features Path layouts; patios, raised beds, decking, steps, walls, fences, ponds, rock gardens, lawns, glasshouses, pergolas and so much more. On the other hand; you may be considering changes to reduce maintenance Borders that have been planted with annuals could be converted to low maintenance and interesting features with all year-round interest.
If you are a keen gardener; it is a good idea to look at other gardens in your neighbourhood and visit gardens that are open to the public where you will hopefully gain inspiration In the meantime, be safe in the garden, don’t overdo things and above all; have a happy and safe festive period.