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Essential Gardening Tasks for Winter

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Area of the Garden Early Winter
The Ornamental Garden Frosts, freezing conditions, and snow may make it difficult, if not inadvisable, to do much work outside during a good part of the winter season. It is, however, possible to create a winter garden that has plenty of visual interest as well as fragrance.

Temporary color can be introduced in the form of winter-flowering. Bedding plants as well as a few winter-flowering bulbs.

  • Protect crowns of herbaceous plants from frost damage with straw or dry leaves.
  • Protect root balls of container-grown plants by wrapping the containers in burlap or newspaper.
  • Continue to clear vacant beds and borders. Where necessary, firm soil that has been lifted around shrub roots by frost.
  • In a windy garden, prune back some of the top-growth on roses to minimize windrock.
  • If the soil in flower beds is very wet, try to avoid walking on it, which could compact it. Stand on a board so that your weight is spread over a large area.
  • Sow alpine and tree seeds that benefit from exposure to frost, and leave them outside.
  • Begin winter-pruning trees and shrubs.
  • Browse through seed catalogs, and decide what to buy. Place orders to seed companies early so that you are not disappointed.

The Vegetable Garden

A carefully planned vegetable garden will continue to yield some fresh crops throughout the winter. Protect crops, with row covers and cloches for best results.
Continue to harvest trench celery.
Check for slug damage, and lake appropriate action.
Continue to harvest leek, turnip, rutabagas, kohlrabi, and parsnip crops.
Bend the leaves of cauliflower over the curds to protect them from frost damage.
Plant chicory roots in pots, and place them in a dark spot at about 45°F (7°C).
Harvest young shoots as they appear.

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The Fruit Garden
Winter weather provides a relatively quiet period in the fruit garden since fruit trees and bushes are now fully dormant. Check fruit in storage,
showing signs of deterioration Prune red and white currants from now until hue winter. After pruning, apply a mulch of well-roiled manure or compost.

Prune apples and pears. Check branches, stems, and trunks for signs of fungal canker. Prune out and treat affected areas as necessary.
Make sure that any stakes and ties around fruit bushes and trees are held firmly in place.
Apply dormant oil or similar to help control overwintering pests and diseases.

Stored Apples
The Greenhouse
Use a greenhouse to make early sowings of many vegetables and flowers. Check the thermometer regularly, and adjust the heating as necessary. Sow die seeds of herbaceous perennials such as anemones, Carina, columbines, Dianthus; hollyhocks, and poppies.
Prune grapevines have grown under glass.

The Lawn
The lawn needs little attention during the winter. Unless any urgent action is required, it is best to avoid working on the lawn much until spring. Continue to rake up any fallen leaves that have blown onto the lawn.
Use a brush with stiff bristles to scatter any worm castings that have appeared on the lawn.

winter garden

Midwinter Late Winter
Slugs may cause damage during mild spells, so control them before they attack any crowns that are left in the ground.

Prevent the sides of ponds from being cracked by pressure from freezing water. Float a ball, empty plastic bottle, or log on the surface.
Brush heavy snow off branches to prevent the weight from snapping them.
Protect winter-flowering hellebores from being splashed with mud by covering them with cloches.

  • Carefully fork over the surface soil in flower beds containing spring-flowering bulbs to break up compaction and to deter the growth of algae, moss, and weeds.
  • Dig the soil in preparation for planting dahlias when all danger of frost has passed.
  • Make sure that garden birds have a regular supply of food and water during the cold weather.
  • Plant trees and shrubs on dry, warm days. Sow a selection of herbaceous perennials to incorporate into your flower borders in the spring.
  • Once winter-flowering heathers have finished flowering, trim them back lightly. Do not cut into woody growth – just trim off old flowering stems. Plant Tigriclia bulbs outside in a sheltered, warm spot. Also, plant Crocosmia. Check dahlias in storage, and remove any that are showing signs of rotting.
  • Prune winter-flowering jasmine as soon as the last of the flowers have finished. Prune and train stem of ornamental climbers such as Vitis coignetiae. Start to prune Cornus (dogwoods), that have brightly colored winter stems. Plant gladioli, anemones, lilies, Ranunculus, and hedges in mild areas. Feed established flower beds and borders with well-rotted manure.
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Continue to harvest winter cabbage, brussels sprouts, parsnips, and leeks.

  • Spray brussels sprouts and other winter brassicas for whitefly.
    Harvest Jerusalem artichokes. Make sure that you lift every piece of the tuber. Store tubers in a paper bag in a cool, well-ventilated shed or garage.
  • Plant early potatoes in pots in a greenhouse or a cold frame to produce a very early crop. Choose a sheltered spot with moist soil, to make the first sowing of carrots.

Sow early peas in a sheltered spot.

    Sow onions and scallions.

  • Continue to harvest winter brassicas, leeks, celery, and root crops.
  • Continue to spray against brassica whitefly.In mild areas, shallots may be planted.
  • Thin lettuce is sown in midsummer.
  • Spray peaches, nectarines, and almonds with a copper-based fungicide to prevent attacks of peach-leaf curl. Cover fan-trained trees with an open-sided plastic shelter.
  • Stan forcing rhubarb. Cover the crowns with a deep layer of leaves or leaf mold, then cover with a pot.
  • Apply a mulch of well-rotted manure or compost around the bases of gooseberries.
  • Complete the last pruning of apples and pears. Apply a second spray of copper-based fungicide to trees susceptible to peach-leaf curl about 1 day after the first application.
  • Sprinkle sulfate of potash around the root- feeding area of apples, pears, and plums to encourage good fruiting later in the year.
    Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries. Cul back to ground level the canes that fruited last autumn.
  • Prune back canes of raspberries planted last year to about 12 in (30 cm) above ground level.
  • Start to sow seeds of Antirrhinum, begonias, pelargoniums, salvias, verbenas, and at 65°F (18°C).
  • Take cuttings from perpetual-flowering carnations; root in sandy soil mix at 50°F (10°C). Water trays of seedlings with a copper-based fungicide to prevent damping off.
  • Ventilate as much as possible to prevent the buildup of diseases in the damp atmosphere.
  • Has your lawnmower serviced and repaired if you have not already done so?
    Make sure that all lawn tools are properly cleaned, oiled, and stored for the winter. Try to keep off the grass if it is frozen since damage will encourage the onset of diseases.
  • Lift loose or sunken stepping-stones in the lawn. Level them, and re-lay.
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