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  • Chair & Louise

Winter is Coming! Are you ready?

I’m delighted to introduce Louise Mills to the Horticultural Society. Louise has been working at Grattons as a WRAG (Work & Retrain as a Gardener Scheme) trainee since August. To learn more about this Scheme please click here.

Louise had previously been a primary school teacher in London and more recently, Farnham but decided in July 2021 to pursue her passion for horticulture. She earned her RHS Level 2 qualification at Merrist Wood this summer and is currently studying for her RHS Level 3. Louise has been busy nurturing her own garden, creating new borders and raised beds to grow fruit, vegetables and herbaceous plants as well as working part-time doing maintenance gardening work. Over this next year, she will be sharing her gardening tips and advice through a monthly blog of 'Gardening Jobs for this Month’ here on our website.

Gardening Jobs in December by Louise Mills

Winter is coming! Night temperatures have dropped considerably over the last couple of weeks and more in line with what we would expect at this time of year. As we rake up the last of the leaves and finish the tidying up of this year’s growing season, it’s time to look ahead to next year. You may wish to plan crop rotations for your kitchen garden or check and organise your seed stock. As I plan my beds and borders for next year, I will be assessing which plants struggled with our drier, warmer summer and might soon need replacing.

Perennials, Shrubs and Trees

  • Prune open-grown apple and pear trees to ensure a healthy, productive cycle of fruiting wood. The aim is to create a framework that is an open goblet shape, with four to five main branches.

  • Prune Acers, birches and grape vines before Christmas. Waiting until late winter or early spring can lead to bleeding, as the sap will have started to rise in anticipation of spring.

  • Lift and divide overcrowded herbaceous perennials. Those that you don’t get round to can be done in the spring.

  • Prune climbing and shrub roses to prevent leggy stems from being damaged by winter winds. You should also cut away dead, diseased or damaged growth and tie in any new shoots.

Kitchen Garden and Greenhouse

  • Check that greenhouse heaters are working or insulation is in place before the cold weather truly hits. Efforts to garden more sustainably along with the high cost of fuel means you may wish to consider how greenhouses can be heated more efficiently. Consider insulating your greenhouse with bubblewrap particularly if you have a wooden framed one.

  • Clean greenhouses, cold frames and cloches to ensure maximum light transmission. Garlic spray or vinegar spray are great alternatives to strong chemicals. Harvest leeks, hardy salads, parsnips, sprouts, winter cabbage and any remaining root crops.

  • Be prepared to apply frost protection to any remaining outdoor crops.

  • Mulch vegetable beds with organic matter (apart from the beds you plan to grow root vegetables in next season!) This will help prevent weeds but also protect and nourish the soil during the winter months.

  • Prune established blackcurrant plants to allow the young wood to start putting on growth in spring. Cut out a third of the oldest, woody stems, plus any that are weak or damaged.

  • Check on any fruit that is already in storage for signs of deterioration and dispose of any affected fruit to limit spread.

Other jobs

  • Plant tulip bulbs. Now that soil temperatures are lowering, it’s the perfect time. Remember, they need a site with good drainage so, if your soil conditions don’t suit tulips, plant them in pots or containers.

  • Keep on top of the weeds. Due to the mild weather and all the rain, there are plenty of them!

  • Tidy and organise sheds, putting away growing supports and protection nets so they don’t suffer unnecessary damage over the winter months.

  • Clean, dry and store any used pots, seed trays or other containers to reduce the risk of overwintering pests and diseases.

  • Provide winter protection for tender plants.

  • Ensure that any pots or containers left outside are raised onto pot feet or bricks to provide adequate drainage and prevent them from sitting in the wet winter weather.

  • Wrap any large pots that are at risk of cracking due to frost with hessian, fleece or bubblewrap or consider moving them to a more sheltered location including a frost-free greenhouse.

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