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9 ways to prep your garden for winter

Make the most of the last rays of sun this month and get your garden in order for the season ahead with this advice from local biz, Armstrong Landscapes.

If, like me, you’re a bit of a fair weather gardener, take heed of this advice from local landsape company and garden experts, Armstrong Landscapes. Ticking these tasks off your list now will keep your patch looking preened through the miserable months, and will really pay off come spring.

PICK YOUR MOMENT TO PRUNE

Don’t be in a hurry to do this… Winter pruning is usually done for deciduous trees and shrubs once all the leaves have fallen. Late winter pruning would be really effective for things like Buddleia and Hydrangeas, whereas non-flowering, evergreen shrubs can be pruned at any time of the year (just bear in mind that if you do this too soon, any new growth will be susceptible to frost damage). January is a great time to prune these particular shrubs.

PLANT SOME COLOUR

For pots and containers full of colour throughout the winter you can’t beat the winter pansies and violas. These can be enhanced with evergreen grasses, ivy and dwarf conifers to give the container height and interest. Spring bulbs are all available now and can be planted at the same time for a further effect once spring arrives. Dwarf Irises always look particularly splendid in containers and some flower as early as February.

TRY ‘LASAGNE’ PLANTING

Another way to plant bulbs is the new concept of lasagne planting. This involves planting layers of bulbs of different varieties where the flowering period overlaps each other, so more pop up as others die back, meaning you have colour for longer.

OPT FOR SHRUBS

Clockwise from top left: Mahonia berries, Mahonia flowers, Pieris, Nandina

There are some beautiful shrubs that come into their own in the winter. These include Mahonia (Oregon Grape) with their plumes of scented yellow flowers, Nandina (Heavenly Bamboo) that turn a fiery red once the temperature drops, Pieris that flower in the spring with beautiful bell shaped flowers scented like Lily of the Valley. With Pieris the new growth after flowering is bright red making this particular shrub a really hard working one. Conifers are at last ‘coming back into fashion’ and there are some stunning specimens that create colour, texture and form which can really bring your existing borders to life.

NOURISH THE SOIL

Applying a mulch in winter is especially beneficial. Anything that covers the soil and sits on top can be classified as a mulch. This includes bark, gravel, home-made compost, spent mushroom compost, composted straw or manure. For the winter mulch, a manure based one would work the best. This is a simple way to enrich your borders without having to do all the heavy digging. Once the mulch has been spread (avoiding putting it too close to the stems of existing plants) the worms will do all the heavy work for you by taking it down into the soil.

PROTECT YOUR POTS

All pots should be raised off the ground in winter with pot feet, which are specially designed for the job, or just ordinary house bricks. This enables excess water to drain away, which prevents the pots cracking when the water freezes and expands. A belt-and-braces method would be to raise the pot AND wrap it it bubble wrap, which will also insultate and protect the root of the plant.

WRAP YOUR DELICATES

Covering tender plants has become much easier with the fleece bags that are available from most garden centres – they come in varying sizes to envelop the entire top of the plant. With our dryer, longer summer more and more Mediterranean plants now appear in our gardens – we recommend bringing these indoors (particularly young specimens) or at least putting them in a more protected position before fleecing. Do this now, before the really heavy weather sets in.

LOOK AFTER YOUR FURNITURE

In an ideal world it is preferable to clean and oil wooden furniture and store it in a dry place. But if it can’t be put away it should be covered appropriately. Putting the feet up on bricks will also help to reduce weather damage. Opt for a heavy duty, oiled canvas if you can – they cost a lot more, but will last for many years and, of course, protect your furniture for longer, too. .

FEED THE BIRDS 

There is nothing more pleasurable than watching our native birds congregating in the garden on bird feeders. It is very important to keep feeders replenished at all times, as during the coldest months the birds’ natural sources of food become extremely limited and they’ll get used to having a source that is always available in your garden. If they have to fly around looking for food they use to much energy, which they need to keep warm. All bird foods are specifically designed to give them the best ingredients but high calorie foods include fat balls, peanuts and sunflower seeds.

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