It’s the beginning of December, and the festive season is here. If last year's weather is anything to go by, we could be set for some snow. There are a lot of holly berries and some on the hawthorn - as farmers might say ‘it’s preparing the wildlife for a harsh winter’
I love a cold winter. Not only is it good to kill all the pests and diseases in the soil, but it’s also good for us, mentally and physically. Just waking up up to those beautiful frosty mornings, where everything has been kissed with frost … or maybe even a touch of snow ... everything becomes frozen in time, which creates a real magic here. The stillness … the sheer beauty of the garden takes on a whole new dimension in the winter months … where the trees become skeletons and glistening frost and snow harden the ground.
Most people seem to think we pause our gardening in the winter months, and, before we moved to the Laundry, I suppose the winter months were slightly quieter. As time has passed, and our garden has become larger, our garden tasks have grown with it. Now, winter is as busy as the rest of the year, with plenty of jobs to be getting on with! If we’re not out in the garden, digging and planting, we’re inside dreaming and planning.
Here are 5 garden jobs for you that will certainly be keeping us busy this December.
1- plant any remaining bulbs ready for the spring like tulips
2- Check any newly planted trees
3- Feed the birds
4- Clean and sharpen garden tools and service your mowers
5- Plan for next year
1- If you haven’t finished planting your bulbs, especially tulip bulbs, there’s still time - provided the ground isn’t too hard.
If the ground is too solid, then the alternative is to put them in pots so that, come the springtime, you can place them in any gaps in your borders to brighten them up.
2- After the recent storms of November, we like to keep a check on newly planted trees. The first thing to look out for is any loosening of the soil around the base of the tree. If this has happened, just firm it back with your foot to make sure the roots are well connected with the ground below. The second thing to do is to check the stakes and tree ties. This is useful for recently planted or recently established trees.
3- There’s nothing lovelier than watching the birds feed while you sit inside, planning for the year ahead, with a nice hot mug of something! Food can be scarce for the birds at this time of year and it’s vital that we give them some extra feed. It’s also worth checking any feeders in your garden, and keep them clean. If there have been frosts, break the ice in birdbaths, so that the birds have somewhere to drink and bathe. Make your own fat balls ... it’s fun, and highly nutritious for birds at this time of year.
4- Cleaning and sharpening garden tools. This is a job that we are getting better at! You can imagine we have secateurs scattered all over the place, that have to be gathered up in the winter months, laid out on a table, thoroughly cleaned, sharpened and oiled ready for the New Year. There are lots of sharpening kits that you can buy, but our favourite is from Niwaki. This is also a brilliant time to send your mower for a service and any other motorised garden tools that you might use before you put them away for the winter.
5- And finally ... plan, plan, plan. I can’t stress enough how wonderful it is to plan for the year ahead, make lots of lists, scour magazines, social media and books. There’s so much out there that will give you inspiration. Maybe treat yourself to a little scrapbook. I’ve always been a hoarder, keeping old catalogues that have lovely pictures of flowers in that I can cut out and create ideas with. Alternatively, you could try a website like Crocus where they have done the thinking for you and have created a selection of pre-designed borders for you.
If there was a number 6 to this list, it would be to just enjoy this beautiful time of year, and maybe try and visit a couple of Winter Gardens or parks nearby where you live, because it’s so good to just be outside and to see different spaces other than your own. You never know ... they might just give you a little bit of inspiration!
My recommendations for the month: (sorry! I’m a fan!)
Book: The cottage garden by Claus Dalby