Winter Gardening

Many gardeners find themselves out of work at this time of year, with clients looking out into the garden and thinking that there is nothing to do asking their gardeners not to come back till spring.

Not only is there plenty to do during the winter, but us gardeners often appreciate the time to get on top of some of the jobs that come summer we cannot find the time to do. There are also jobs that are best done at this time of year to benefit the plants, and things that we are restricted from doing e.g. hedge trimming which should only take place between October and March to prevent us from disturbing nesting birds.

I work for all of my clients all year round, the only things really stopping me are torrential rain and laying snow. Whilst I can work in the rain, repeatedly treading on wet lawns and soil is bad for both, and if really wet can be quite hazardous – in these cases I stick to paths, and work from there where I can. Snow really does put a stop to most garden tasks, simply because everything is under a layer of snow. In heavy snow I may attend to clear the tops of some shrubs and trees so that the weight of the snow doesn’t damage branches but I don’t think we have ever had quite that much snow down here on the south coast although I think 2013 we had quite a lot as I remember even the roads were closed in Northney.

Winter is great for pruning many shrubs, hedges and fruit trees – not the stone fruits, save those till May. This can be done even in very cold conditions, you don’t need to worry about frosts, or minus temperatures provided the trees and shrubs are dormant. Here on Hayling and locally this is getting harder with our winters being so mild and many shrubs and trees holding on to their leaves for much longer you need to be a bit more careful, but by middle of January most things are fast asleep and will tolerate a good cut back. With all the energy and sap being stored right down in the roots and low down in the tree.

If the ground isn’t frozen this is a great time to get on top of the weeds, especially some of the more stubborn ones including the likes of Rubus fruticosa (Bramble) and Dandelions, Docks etc where the foliage is still present and you can spot them.

I was mowing the lawn on 29th December this year, lawn grasses grow in temperatures above 4C so don’t think just because its winter the mower can go away. Keep the blades nice and high and just take the very tops off to keep it tidy, and to keep on top of it. I was glad I had done this in 2017/2018 as we then had a lot of rain and I couldn’t get on to most of the lawns to mow them. In fact it was so bad with one client, by the time the ground in the orchard was dry enough to mow the grass was so long I had to strim it first and then take the mower over it, it was a big job.

If you really can’t get out into the garden, then its a great time of year to maintain all your garden tools.  Clean them up, sharpen blades, check oil and filters where applicable. And if you have petrol/fuel powered tools get them serviced professionally (if you don’t have the skills or tools to service yourself).

As well as giving your gardener a chance to get on top of some of the jobs, it also means they will prioritise your garden over those clients who just look for gardeners in the spring and summer. We often get called on to blitz/clear a garden in late spring when the weather warms up and people suddenly want to be outside using the space and it really isn’t much fun for anyone. A guarantee of year round work, and working for someone who recognises the importance of looking after their outdoor space in all seasons is a great client to have. I love working with those people to give them a great space that hopefully is well maintained, cared for and can be enjoyed whatever the weather be it from the kitchen window, sat outside, or for those that like to potter buried in amongst the borders somewhere. A space that is cared for is inspiring whatever the weather.

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