January may not be your favourite time to be out in the garden, but a little extra care during this bleak time of year can more than pay you back once Spring arrives. Follow these winter gardening tips to keep both the plants and wildlife of your garden healthy and ready for another year.
Prepare your soil
Winter is the ideal time to prepare your soil for growing vegetables in the coming year. This is an opportunity to remove weeds and add manure or compost. Winter frost also helps to break up large clods of soil, making it easier to work with. For advice on preparing your soil over winter, take a look at our article.
If your garden contains a lot of shrubs, winter is the time to get them back in good condition. Begin by removing any dead or diseased leaves or branches, so as not to spread disease to other parts of the shrub. You can also prune your shrubs into a more manageable shape and size to give them room to grow over spring and summer. Any particularly long branches can be reduced in length by up to a third their current length.
Protect delicate plants from frost
January and February can bring about the dangers of frost for delicate plants, especially herbs. Bring small plants indoors, either into your house or a greenhouse. Individual outdoor covers can also be used to protect plants in the ground, such as upturned jam jars or a plastic bottle cut in half. Fleece can also be used to cover or wrap plants to keep them protected whilst in the ground. Add an extra layer of mulch around the base of plants to help maintain soil temperature and help protect delicate roots.
Inspect your lawn’s health
A number of factors can signify issues with your lawn’s health. Moss is often a sign of underlying problems, so use this month, while grass is growing at its slowest, as an opportunity to determine what may be wrong. You may need to improve drainage in your soil, prune back trees and shrubs to increase sunlight to your lawn or test your soil’s PH to find the problem. Oh the other hand, moss itself can add variety to your lawn, giving it a more interesting texture and making it a more natural choice for your garden. So if a garden with higher diversity means more to you than an immaculate lawn, it could be worth embracing moss and leaving it be.
Help out your garden’s wildlife
Many of your garden’s local animals will be hibernating at this time of year. Lend a hand to those who are sticking out this chilly time of year. Leave bird feeders hanging from trees for local birds, and consider planting shrubs such as holly or hawthorn which provide food for birds and mammals. Take care to keep ponds or water features useable by wildlife throughout the winter- float a tennis ball on the surface of the water to prevent freezing, and leave plenty of logs and dead leaves to provide shelter for insects and frogs. When spring arrives, birds will be looking for materials to build their nests, so keep plenty of materials lying around to help them out, like twigs, dead leaves. Even scraps of fabric and pet hair can help!
Image sourced: Steph Ltagsallotmentorganic gardeningsmallholdingwinter gardening