Whether you’re a complete beginner or an experienced horticulturist, there are loads of jobs you should be doing over the autumn and winter. One of the key ones is protecting your plants. Some plants are hardy through freezing weather, while others are not.
So, from relocating dormant plants to providing winter sustenance to your garden’s wildlife, keep reading to find out how to winter-proof your garden and put in the groundwork for a successful spring season…
Remove tough weeds
Plagued with invasive, pesky weeds during the summer? Now’s the time to dig them out of your garden and banish them for good! The ground is soft and moist from the weather, so roots are much easier to remove.
Using a small garden trowel or fork, loosen the ground around the weed and pull it out. If you’ve got weeds on the driveway or brickwork, you can pour boiling water on them to cause a shock and kill the weeds. Be very careful though, you don’t want to harm any nearby plants!
Plant or move trees
The ideal time for planting bare-rooted plants is between November and March, as their roots can focus on settling in instead of producing flowers. Those in containers can be planted throughout the year as their roots are more established.
Trees to plant in winter:
- Sorbus vilmorinii (Vilmorin’s rowan)
- Acer freemanii (Freeman maple)
- Liquidambar styraciflua (American sweet gum)
- Amerlanchier lamarckii (Snowy Mespilus)
Remember: Plant during a period where the weather in your area is stable, and above freezing if possible.
Remove diseased plants
With the winter soil being protected by decaying foliage and plant bulbs, it’s a good time to start removing diseased plants. Look out for:
- Black spot
Commonly associated with roses, many plants can fall victim to this pesky fungal infection. Black spots, as the name suggests can be identified by pronounced black spots and patches on plant leaves.
- Powdery mildew
Just like its name, this fungus and its tell-tale dusty white powder can be visible year-round on leaves, stems and flowers. It most commonly affects lilac, daisies, phlox and roses.
- Downy mildew
During wet weather or prolonged periods of damp, you might find some plants infected with fungal mildew. In future, allow sufficient space between plants, and water in the daytime so they have time to dry out before nightfall.
Remember: Wash your hands and tools before handling other vegetation.
Add new soil and fertiliser
Leaves provide some wonderful protection for your soil during the autumn and winter months, but it’s useful to build on this protection by adding some extra mulch and fertiliser. Mulch helps to protect the soil from the elements, traps in moisture and keeps weeds at bay.
Types of winter mulch:
- Grass cuttings
- Rotted manure
- Shredded bark
- Cocoa shell
Add a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch around plants and on exposed soil, leaving a small amount of space around any stems.
Plant or move spring-flowering bulbs
Most spring-flowering bulbs like to be planted before January, so they have time to grow strong roots in prep for flowering in the new year. So, get them in the ground by the start of winter.
Alternatively, if you noticed they were clumped too close together the previous spring, dig them up and thin them out for a wider spread the next year.
Protect plants susceptible to frost
Some container-grown and border plants are more susceptible to frost and root damage, so it’s recommended to bring them inside to a warmer room over winter to protect them.
Plants like Fuchsias, Amaryllis and even Begonias will usually keep flowering if the temperature remains right for them, so position them indoors for a longer show.
Relocate dormant plants
Some plants need a dormant period over winter to thrive the next year – it’s mostly tender perennials like Calla Lillies, Dahlias, Tuber Roses or potted plants. They need a space that won’t freeze, but is still cold, so a garage or basement is ideal.
Remember: Treat them as houseplants and only water them when the first inch or so of soil is completely dry.
Give nature a helping hand
Winter is hard for your plants, but also the local wildlife, so here are some things you can do to help:
- Feed the birds – fresh berries and fruit become scarce the colder the weather is, so provide plenty of energy-rich nuts, seeds and worms to see them through.
- Build hedgehog houses and bird boxes to keep them safe in hibernation.
- Make holes in ice-covered ponds to help wildlife drink and breathe.
Clear out the shed and your tools
Your tools are unlikely to be needed as much in the winter, so it’s the opportune time to give them a bit of love and care.
Start by cleaning and disinfecting the blades and tines of everything, then sharpen what can be sharpened and oil everything that moves. Once you’re done, store them somewhere safe until spring.
If you have a plant you’re worried won’t survive the winter, or one you want to make a double of, then break off a piece and propagate it.
Electric propagators are wonders for starting seeds early or providing your cuttings with the conditions they need to grow roots and thrive. Just make sure it’s well-ventilated, and the cuttings are healthy and disease-free.
Winter is a quiet time for gardens, but you can still help things along and prepare for the busy spring season with ease.