The shortest day of the year is approaching, but there are still a number of jobs to keep you busy in your garden!
Harvest your remaining winter crops, take hardwood cuttings, prune back fruit trees and protect your shrubs from winter damage – and then cosy up by the fire and enjoy the festive season!
Prevent Winter Damage
Cold, wet and windy weather will damage trees, shrubs and garden structures. To prevent this kind of damage, improve shelters, stake plants, mulch, wrap pots, and move plants to sheltered areas.
Feeding: Avoid applications of nitrogen-rich fertilisers late in the season, as they stimulate sappy growth.
Mulching: This can reduce compaction and soil erosion that commonly follows heavy rain.
Protective wrapping: Protective wrappings should be put in place at the first sign of frost. Use horticultural fleece to protect plants from cold and wet weather.
Free-standing apple and pear trees should be pruned every winter to keep them productive and control their size. Maintaining an open-centred crown with well-spaced branches ensures that trees stay healthy and bear good quality fruit.
Pruning should take place while the tree is dormant – after leaf fall and before bud burst. This is usually between November and early March.
Prune acers, birches and vines before Christmas to avoid bleeding. In rare cases, prolonged bleeding can lead to loss of vigour and death of the tree or shrub.
Harvest Remaining Winter Crops
Harvest robust winter vegetables to ensure that you have a supply throughout the winter months.
For root vegetables, it is a good idea to prevent the ground from freezing so that you can dig them up after heavy frosts. Use bin liners filled with cardboard or a thick layer of straw to insulate the soil.
Vegetables that can withstand the harsh British winters include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Winter carrots
- Purple cauliflowers
- Sprouting broccoli
Take Hardwood Cuttings
Hardwood cuttings provide an easy and reliable method of propagating a range of deciduous climbers, trees and shrubs. They are taken from mid-autumn to late winter when gardeners have more time available. Some evergreen plants, including hollies, can be taken at the same time of year.
Hardwood cuttings are suitable for most deciduous shrubs, climbers including vines and honeysuckle, fruit trees including fig, gooseberry and mulberry trees, and willow, poplar and plane trees.
The ideal time to take hardwood cuttings is just after leaf fall or just before bud-burst in spring.
The cuttings can generally be forgotten about until the following year, as the cut surface calluses over winter, with roots developing in the spring.