It may be cold outside, but there’s lots to do in the garden to warm you up, keep you fit and make your space bright and beautiful. Here's our top 10 tips to get your garden in shape for the winter so it'll be in tip top condition come spring...
Dig up your dahlias
Dahlias are far too pretty to suffer the winter chill so when the first frosts blacken their leaves, dig up the tubers, brush off any excess soil and hang them upside down to dry. Then store them in a box filled with dry compost until next spring when you can plant them up again in pots of fresh damp compost. These lovely dahlias (pictured above) are called ‘Fifteen Love’ - look out for the bulbs next spring.
Make a pretty foliage combo for the patio
Pick a nice pot and plant it up with some leafy evergreens that will keep the colour and your spirits up during the winter months. Pictured here is a hellebore, which has pretty white flowers from January to March, a spotty Osmanthus and some green box, plus a few cheery violas.
Give your home some flower power
Fill your home with bright exotic flowers – they really make a different to a dull, damp autumn day. These are Hippeastrum or amaryllis, which you can buy already planted up or as dry bulbs, which you can pot up yourself. Just keep the compost moist and they should be in flower in a few weeks.
Ripen your tomatoes indoors
A lot of my tomatoes failed to ripen outside this year because of the dreadful summer, which held them back earlier in the year. However, if you bring them indoors and pop them in your fruit basket or in a paper bag with some bananas, they should still ripen. The bananas give off a chemical called ethylene that speeds up the ripening process.
Make some leafy compost
Rake up your leaves or collect them by running the mower over them on the lawn, but don’t take them down to the tip – they’re valuable! Water the leaves if they’re dry, then pack them into strong plastic sacks and tie loosely at the top. Puncture the bags with a few holes and leave till next autumn when they will have rotted down to make a great soil conditioner.
Clean out your pond
This is a great time to clean out your pond, and pack away fountain pumps if you’re not planning to use them in the winter. Also place a net over small ponds to prevent leaves falling in the water and polluting it as they decompose.
Plant spring bulbs now
It’s not too late to get some spring bulbs into the pots and borders. You have till the beginning of December to guarantee flowers next spring.
Plant for beautiful berries
Chase off the winter blues with a few beautiful evergreen berried shrubs, such as holly, cotoneaster and pyracantha. This is the perfect time to plant them – just check the labels for their final dimensions before you buy to ensure you have enough space to squeeze them in. Take a look at the berried shrubs from Hillier Nurseries for a great choice.
Cut down straggly plant stems
Some perennial flowers produce graphic seedheads and add to the beauty of a winter garden, but the old stems and leaves of others just look tatty and are best cut down with sharp secateurs and composted. And if you’re new to gardening, don’t worry if perennials such as daylilies and hostas turn yellow and die down – they will reappear again good as new next spring.
Don't let the dark evenings get you down, take a break in the countryside or check out one of your local winter gardens. This image is of the stunning borders at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Hampshire, which are well worth a visit at this time of year.
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Zia Allaway, Garden Expert
View all posts by Zia Allaway, Garden Expert