Hellebore in the frost
We leave 2020 firmly behind us and enter the new year thankful for new beginnings and in hope that things will improve. The days are still prohibitively short, but bit by bit they lengthen, bringing new life in garden with them. The recent cold spell has produced some hard frosts here in West Sussex which, uncongenial as they are, do make everything into a winter wonderland and rather photogenic.
It's our first winter with a greenhouse, which I probably check more often than necessary seeing if last years cuttings and the tender plants are still hanging there. I'm often told as a gardener 'it must be nice to put your feet up for a few months', but no there is still lots to be done! Winter is a great time to catch up on maintenance tasks and prepare for the year ahead. We've been busy carting barrow loads of compost to mulch the beds and borders with, made two more compost bins and started pruning the apples and pears. Not to mention ordering seeds and planning sowing schedules and crop rotations for the community gardens and our own veg patch.
Since we already home school our children the school closures haven't affected us as much as others, but the children's groups and play dates have obviously stopped leaving them with pent up energy to burn off - ideally not indoors! So whatever the weather and wrapped and waterproofed up to the nines they come out with us for long dog walks or to help in the garden. The planned garden tasks often go haywire once they are involved but who cares, they are happy, safe and more often than not in need of a good bath!
What to do in the garden this month:
Broad beans under cover to plant out in March
Tulips - it's not too late although they may flower later than normal.
Plant out bare root roses and hellebores.
Mulch heavy clay soils with organic matter to improve structure and drainage.
Take cuttings of currants.
Snowdrops, hellebores, sprouts, kale, parsnips, leeks, winter salads.
Prune vines, currants and Japanese acers that are now dormant.
Cut back tall asparagus foliage once yellow and brittle and mulch with manure or compost.
Prune apples and pear trees/espaliers/
cordons, but not cherry or plums.
Pinch out autumn sown sweet peas.
Cut back autumn fruiting raspberries.
Turn over the compost heaps.
Wash pots and labels.
Clean windows and pathways.
Clean and disinfect the greenhouse.
Put your feet up, open the seed catalogues and start dreaming of what you can grow this year.
Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years. – Unknown