Your Winter Gardening Guide
It is the simplicity of some statements, repeated enough through a movie or series, and often as the plot thickens or the lead character loses his head, immortalise some words forever. We quote these lines like scripture, awaiting opportune moments to use these words, and none present a better one than the change in weather. For as the frost creeps in, first with the autumn browning, that we whisper in the same contemplative, yet ominous tone as Ned Stark, “Winter is coming.”
And undoubtedly, winter will come – we, here in the UK, acknowledge the cold, respect it, prepare for it. Fortunately, we need not fear the White Walkers, the frost giants, or the frozen wastelands courtesy of our favourite fictional fantasies. We do, however, have other problems, like garden preparation.
There isn’t any time better than the advent of winter to ‘spring clean’ – and like the rules of gardening always dictate – you must sow before you reap. To spring clean, in essence, is to turn your home upside down, get into the corners you’d otherwise avoid, and prepare your space for warmer weather. And as our homes usually require a season (spring) in advance for such cleaning and prep, our gardens want for a little more than that – which is why it is best to begin in autumn.
A garden’s time to shine is indubitably the season of spring – and for that to happen, a lot of the growth for our spring flowers occur in the winter. It thus makes sense to start getting a little dirty as soon as the leaves begin to fall.
Beyond cleaning out the garden shed, there is a lot more to consider. And so, without further ado, here is a winter gardening guide for you to use.
The six steps of winter gardening
Gardening is hard work. It is labour intensive; it is challenging. Done right throughout the year, it can alleviate the pressures of pre-frost preparation. Often, following lovely spring blooms, we tend to neglect the upkeep of our gardens. Additionally, we seek not to work the land in the brunt of summer – laziness that we, unfortunately, pay dearly for in the months leading up to the frost.
Step 1: Tool check
A tool check may seem unnecessary at first, but we are all human and thus prone to human error. Nothing can be as off-putting for one willing to spend time in the now fast-fading sunshine digging up weeds and pruning than discovering that the favoured shears miss a handle, the rake missing teeth, or the mower stubbornly refusing to start.
The change in weather from the cool, crispness of spring to the warmth and humidity (in some areas) of summer can be disastrous to metal tools. Metals rust diminishing their structural integrity. Ensuring that your tools are well-oiled, your mowers and trimmers serviced regularly, and your devices for clipping and cutting are well sharpened are fundamental basics of gardening. Prone to human nature, we do, at times, overlook this step. And it is with this in mind that we remind you:
Of course, beyond simply checking your tools is one thing, where the needs arise, then replace and restore.
Step 2: Compost
Any gardener worth a crop can verify – you cannot have too much compost. The miraculous rot is to plants what food is to us – vital. And ideally, you should have a compost heap or bin somewhere close. If not, we highly recommend beginning a compost storage pile immediately. Perfect for recycling your organic materials from veggie peels to raked leaves.
If you’re only just starting a decomposition cycle, once you dig up your annuals, weed your lawn and complete your pruning, your storage bin should be brimming. Instead of discarding all the extra waste, turn it all into something so much more beneficial. For the more experienced gardener, now is the best time to toss your compost heap, flipping top to bottom to aid in decomposition.
Step 3: Dig up your annuals
Following a lovely season, it seems counterintuitive to dig up your annuals as these are plants that only survive a year. Dig them up and toss them into the compost pile.
Doing so accomplishes two things, you add to your compost heap as mentioned above, and you begin setting the stage for the blooming season to come.
Step 4: Pruning and lawn care
Your perennials, on the other hand, need not be pulled up by the roots. They can survive the frost if nourished well and trimmed to at least 5cm from the ground. Pruning your perennials encourages growth, nutrient absorption, and water retention – particularly for the bulbous varieties mentioned in our spring-flowering guide blog post [Link: https://ucsfresh.com/blogs/news/spring-flowering-bulbs-a-complete-guide].
During the tool check and replacement, you must ensure that among your supplies is a spring-tined rake. This type of rake is perfect for removing thatch and moss, and whatever you rake can then be added to the compost heap.
And if you feel that your lawn isn’t up to scratch, autumn is a great time to lay new turf. If you consider your drainage and aeration – especially around pathways, then this season gives your lawn enough time to establish itself before the warmer months.
Step 5: Go green
A winter garden needs not to be a sad sight. To combat the withered look, spindly trees and leaf-lacking plants should be planted in less visible areas. For your closest vantage points, we recommend an assortment of evergreens. And while it may be a little late to establish your evergreen garden for this winter, you can begin the process by purchasing seedlings or partially grown greens to re-pot per your wishes.
Other than filling gaps in your garden, evergreens also provide structure and a touch of elegance, the likes of daphne providing glossy, green leaves and beautifully fragrant flowers even in the depths of winter.
Consider spring flowering camellias or fatsia for its massive architectural foliage for a more elegant look and feel. For even more variations, you may want to give us a ring, and our experts are sure to guide you well.
Step 6: Plant and harvest
Bare-root plants are plants that you purchase without any soil around their roots. Best to put into the ground just before winter, these plants prove to be an economical way of planting. And you’ll find a much wider variety of fruit trees and bushes available in this form. You can also plant bare-root roses, hedges and even perennials.
Don’t stop the excitement of harvesting in winter as there are many crops to unearth and explore, such as leeks, kale, parsnip and the winter variations of cabbages and salads. Parsnips taste even better following a frost.
Additionally, garlic, fruit bushes, raspberries, and rhubarb are perfect for winter growing.
Enjoyment and attraction
Winter can be a wonderland – if planned right. And gardening requires planning above all else. In your plans, consider more than just the look and feel of your garden. Consider the harvest, acknowledge the wildlife, and most importantly, consider the future of your crops.
Plan for more than just a season, plant for more than just reaping, and nurture with the intent to do so for years to come. Gardening is a patient hobby – and, undoubtedly, you reap what you sow. As the sun sets and the cold sets in, you should take a moment to appreciate all that you have since achieved. Your rewards will show as soon as spring.
For all your winter gardening needs and seeds, visit us at UCS Fresh