While the pastime of gardening may seem like a summer affair, there are plenty of outdoor tasks which need completing in winter to prepare your garden for the next year.
Angela Slater, Gardening Expert at Hayes Garden World and outdoor pros Agents of Field reveal exactly what you need to be doing right now. Pull on your thermals and get to work with these winter garden jobs to save yourself time and money in the long run…
WATCH: Get the lowdown on Agents of Field
Ade and Sophie of Agents of Field explain why winter is a great time to garden: "Now is the time to retreat to a cosy nook, or settle down in front of a warm fire and armed with a laptop, seed catalogues, and pen and paper, start drawing up lists, and make seed orders for next year. Maybe think about re-designing your garden, building a greenhouse, or growing something new on the vegetable patch."
Try these simple winter gardening tips to save you time and money
Go evergreen with your bedding containers
Instead of having a huge turnover of plants to bed in each year, why not consider some evergreen additions? "Adding some permanent planting to containers can cut down on the amount of annual bedding you need each season," explains Angela. "Place a small conifer in the centre of the container, add some evergreen ferns or small shrubs, such as hebe, and finally place some small ivies around the outside. Now all you need is a single pack of bedding plants, easily obtained from the supermarket for a couple of pounds. When it comes to replacing in summer just replace the single pack of annual bedding."
Prep your garden ahead of spring
Protect your herbaceous plants
Before the temperature drops too much, it's time to protect your perennials. "Mulching protects the crowns of your perennial plants over the winter making it less likely you will lose them once the frosts arrive. Spending a few pounds on mulch can save even more money in the spring on replacing a lot of perennials," says Angela. What is mulch? She advises: "Use 2-4 inches of chipped bark, leaf mould, homemade compost or coco chips (just don't use coco chips if you have a dog as they can eat them)."
Go spring shopping now
It always pays to be prepared and thinking about the upcoming season when it comes to bulbs can save you money. "Spring bulbs are in the garden centre now so plan ahead for the spring and save yourself some money," suggests Angela. "Bulbs bought in spring which are ready to flower are more expensive than dormant bulbs bought in autumn."
Help your homemade soil
"Collecting fallen leaves gives you a free source of soil improver," reveals Angela. "Place the leaves in a black bin liner; squeeze out the air; tie the top; pierce the bottom and leave in a corner for about 6 months. Added to the herbaceous border, it provides a beneficial environment for soil micro-fauna which help keep the soil healthy which, in turn, leads to stronger plant growth. It also improves the soil structure which again helps the plants grow strong and more able to resist pests and diseases."
Clean your greenhouse in the winter
Clean your greenhouse
"Giving your greenhouse a good wash down with a mild bleach solution will reduce the chances of any insects and moulds surviving over the winter and infecting your precious tender perennials. A couple of hours cleaning could save you pounds having to replace your plants in spring," advises Angela.
Use your Christmas tree for mulch
Ade and Sophie advise: "Don’t be too quick to bin your exhausted Christmas tree as there’s still plenty of value in it. Shred it for chippings to spread on ericaceous plants, such as blueberries, or use it to create allotment paths. The branches can also make useful allotment plant supports for peas and broad beans."
Agents of Field AKA Ade and Sophie have shared their expert advice
Sow your chillies and peppers
Ade and Sophie think now is the best time to sew these veggies. "These crops need a long growing season, so get sowing now. With so much variety and choice, growing these fruits has never been so popular. The seeds can be grown in modules, pots or trays to the depth of 6mm, on a windowsill. Although germination can be slow, once their true leaves have been revealed, it's important to pot them up. Keep them warm, lit and well-watered."
READ MORE: Inside Nigella Lawson's magical home garden
Get supersized rhubarb
"By forcing rhubarb now, you're simply speeding up its growth for an earlier harvest, and sweeter stems. As soon as new growth appears from the crown, cover the plant over with a rhubarb forcer or container, excluding all light. Eight weeks on, the stalks should be 20-30cm long, and ready to harvest," explain Ade and Sophie.
Keep your garden full of wildlife
Ade and Sophie suggest: "If you have bird-feeding stations, ensure food supplies are topped up, and water supplies are changed regularly and not left to freeze. If you have a fish pond, avoid smashing the ice if it freezes over, as this can shock, or even kill the fish. Instead, try to melt the ice gently with hot water. Don't worry about harming the fish as they tend to remain at the bottom of the pond during the winter."
Winter is coming... so get sowing now
Start repairs during downtime
"With the garden looking bare, you can now see the 'bones' of your growing spaces," say Ade and Sophie. "If you're looking to add structures, trees, or create new areas to grow plants or veg, this visual blueprint is a great guide. It'll also reveal if anything needs repairing or replacing, such as rotten fence panels. With a dormant garden, it's easier to move around on beds without fear of treading on your prize blooms."
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For more gardening advice, head to the blog on Hayes Garden World.