Jut as animals hibernate, so do certain plants and shrubs, and as temperatures begin to drop, a number of species will prepare for dormancy.
This is when winter gardens require a little bit of work. It’s a good idea to tidy away any blackened stems and foliage in order to discourage disease.
Winter is also a great time to assess how your current plants have performed over the year, and to plan ahead for the next growing season.
Make a plan for next year
Whilst your garden is hibernating, now is the time to review its progress. This will allow you to make improvements for the following year.
You may wish to make notes of the areas that need improving, for example, gaps in borders or plants that have struggled to grow to their full potential.
As winter draws in and the temperature starts to drop, now is the time to take a few cuttings. The likes of perennials including argyranthemums, pelargoniums salvias, arctotis and osteospermums, all root very easily and as such, can be transferred to pots indoors.
To do this, simply take a short piece of stem, strip off the leaves (bar the top pair) and cut below the leaf node. Once you have removed the stem tip, transfer to a pot comprising a 50:50 mixture of horticultural grit and compost.
For best results, don’t plant in the centre of the pot and instead, place at the side of vessel as this will encourage quicker root formation.
Water the cutting and place the pot undercover to protect it from the cooler weather. Doing this with a variety of your perennial plants means you will have a head start next season – all without spending a penny! Once each of the cuttings have rooted, simply place them in separate pots in preparation for re-planting them in the garden when the weather gets warmer.
Now is also the time to think about planting bulbs. The likes of hyacinths, alliums, tulips and narcissi are all great options.
Asides from helping to kill fungal diseases in the soil, planting bulbs now will ensure you have an array of plants to look forward to in the new year.
Balcony plants and window boxes
Just because frost is beginning to affect your exterior garden, this doesn’t mean you have to cease growing completely.
Planting a winter window box is a great idea, and one that will help you brighten up your home up until the month of spring. For best results, set your window box before the coldest weather arrives – this will allow the plants to get used to their new, somewhat frosty climate.
You will need to invest in a series of hardy species, in order to ensure they survive the frost. The likes of pansies, violas, flowering cabbage and kale are all great options.
On top of this, choose your window box wisely – opt for a weather-resistant material or seal an existing window box with rainproof paint.
Even when the frost sets in, weeds will continue to grow. It’s important to keep an eye on these nuisance plants, as if not, they will take over the flowerbeds in a winter garden. Remove any noticeable weeds from the ground using a trowel. Alternatively, use a systemic herbicide, such as glyphosate, to control these unwanted pests.
Winter garden chores
Asides from transferring plants indoors and undercover, it’s also important to move gardening tools inside.
Certain tools may fall pray to rust if left in the rain and frost. Simply transfer them to a garden shed or garage for the winter months. Now is also a good time to clean or sharpen garden equipment in preparation for its next use.
Additionally, it’s also important to store away any liquid pesticides, to prevent them from freezing. Plants that can’t be moved in your winter garden should be covered with materials including plastic, tarps, fabric and cardboard in order to protect them.
Each plant will require a cover that is large enough to extend to the ground and to hold the protection in place, it’s best to use stakes or bricks. Finally, if you have any left over seeds remaining that you didn’t quite get a chance to plant this year, place them in a glass container and store them in the fridge. This will ensure they are fit for purpose when spring arrives.
Much of looking after your winter garden during the colder months revolves around keeping it protected until the better weather returns.
Taking steps to protect as many plants as possible should mean less work come the spring.