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WINTER | In the Garden

I love winter. After a rampant growing season, early winter offers an opportunity to restore order to the garden bringing with it spade work – dividing and cutting perennials to the ground and planting bare-rooted trees. Sharpen up your tool of choice and get out there!

PLANT Plant rhubarb, leek lettuce and spinach. Plant some perfume. Winter favourites include Daphne odora, Luculia gratissima, and stocks (Matthiola sp.). Plant punnets of stocks at the front door; or clump in a large pot on the terrace. Continue to liquid feed and you will bring armfuls of scented flowers into your home.

Winter is time to plant natives. As a rule, smaller plants establish more readily. Water regularly through the first year and mulch well. Then they can fend for themselves.

Plant a tree that flowers on your child’s birthday. Winter-flowering trees include deciduous magnolias, flowering peach, and Taiwan cherry (Prunus campanulata). Select them while they are in flower.

Transplant deciduous trees and shrubs while they are dormant.

PRUNE Prune hydrangeas back by one third to a double bud. Shorten the stems on your shrub roses by one third, thin out the centre, remove weak stems and spindly growth. Don’t prune climbing roses until after flowering. The rule of thumb (for most) is to prune a shrub directly after flowering. If you miss it, wait until next year.

SOIL Fix water retention problems in the soil. Add well-rotted animal manures then cover with compost.

PREPARE Order catalogues from Diggers, Lambley, Green Harvest for winter reading. Refresh the shed – clean and sharpen tools, pump up the wheelbarrow tyres and get the lawn mower and chain saw serviced.

FEED Blood and bone or pelletized manure should be thrown around the whole garden, even natives preferably when it’s raining.

GERMINATE Want tomatoes for Christmas Day? Germinate from seed on the windowsill. By September-November the seedlings will be ready for planting out.

Get your potatoes ready now for planting in spring. Buy virus-free potatoes and place them in egg cartons in a warm dark place to encourage the ‘eyes’ to sprout well before planting time.

HARVEST Reap the rewards and harvest lemons, limes and oranges by the bucket load!

It may be winter but there’s plenty to admire in the garden – and plenty to do. And those crisp sunny divine days should be inspiration enough to get out and enjoy it.

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