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December 2014 Newsletter
Where has this year gone? It doesn’t seem two minutes ago that we were toasting in the New Year and breaking our promised resolutions and yet, here we are again, about to go into December!
If, like us, you are starting to feel festive (we’ve had our mini Christmas tree up in the office since early November!), then why not take a look at our Christmas range and don’t forget to order presents for your loved ones in plenty of time for the big day.
If you are thinking off hanging up those gardening gloves and putting away those wellies then think again! There are plenty of jobs still to do in the garden and lots of fun to be had, despite what the weather is like.
On dreary days, head into the greenhouse and start seed sowing indoors ready for next year or , when the weather behaves itself, why not have a look out for berries and greenery to collect for homemade Christmas decorations.
We are all looking forward to the warm spring weather and hot summer days, but in the meantime get out in the garden on those clear, crisp days and clear those lungs, hibernate on the bleak winter ones and do a bit of planning – what will you get up to in the garden next year?
Whatever you are up to this festive period, have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!
It’s that time of year when plants begin to “hibernate”. They’re not in active growth and whilst the soil is still relatively warm it’s the ideal time to plant any bare root perennials, roses and trees, shrubs and hedges. Although plants may look as if they’re not doing much during the winter, but underground establishing strong roots which is why now is the best time to plant them, so as to ensure they get a head start next spring.
Help them establish by mulching and clearing a space around any newly planted trees or shrubs to hold moisture in the soil and avoid competition from weeds. The just let the winter and spring rains keep the roots moist and any winter sunshine helps ripen the wood.
If frost hasn’t hit you yet, it’s bound to in the near future. It’s worth protecting tender plants if you want to keep them overwinter especially if they were expensive to buy or were planed as a long term investment. If you’ve grown them in containers then you can simply move them in to a sheltered porch or greenhouse the worst of the weather off of them. In beds and borders tender plants and shrubs such as palms and citrus can all be killed by severe frost and young, not yet established plants may need special protection too. Use fleece to protect the crowns with a layer of newspaper or straw or use bubble wrap making sure to check regularly for any signs of mould or rot through the months.
Salad crops and young vegetable plants can be covered with cloches whereas greenhouse crops can be protected by using heaters. if you need somewhere to overwinter sweet peas or any young hardy plants, it makes good sense to invest in cold frames which will also protect them from winter wet, rodents and other pests. Roots of container plants can be particularly vulnerable to frost damage if they are not protected because wet soil can freeze and kill them. Pots may also be damaged as water and soil expands within them. Lift pots off the ground and wrap in bubble wrap.
On any really cold and wet day, don’t bother going outside. Instead pour yourself a cuppa, sit down with your seed catalogue and plan for next year. Write a list of ‘must have’ plants, followed by another of plants and vegetables I’m longing to try. You’ll easily fill a few pages of notepad if you let your imagination run riot. Next step is sorting through the seed packets you already have, chucking out seed that is years out of date is a good idea as, germination rates from stale seed are bound to be lower and in some cases none of the seed will be viable. Sowing seed that won’t germinate is a waste of time, resources and money, so try not to feel guilty as you throw half used or donkey’s years-old packets away.
Any seeds you can buy online add to your wish-list and then wait for the January catalogues to drop through the door before making your final choices. This year there are some great offers and lots of different seeds and plants to whet your appetite! You’ll discover them for yourself when the new Unwins 2015 catalogue arrives. Until then get online, make notes and let your imagination run wild.
It might be a bit of an effort getting out in the cold weather to keep winter bedding displays looking good but it is really important that they offer valuable colour this time of year. Even though winter pansies, bellis, primroses and other hardy bedding plants are slower to flower than their summer counterparts it’s still vital to deadhead, to keep bedding plants in flower for the longest time.
Fill any gaps that appear in containers with foliage plants such as ivies or Heucheras that can easily cope with winter cold and still look great. Add height by adding some decorative touches such as Cornus stems which look wonderful in low winter sunshine and, if the soil is to their liking, may even take root over winter, giving you some plants for free for you to pot on next season!
It’s been a very good year for dahlias but it’s now time to protect their tubers from harsh winter weather and keep them safe over winter. They love warm sunny weather especially later in the year, but once the frost hits they hate it. If you live in warm parts of the UK and have light, free draining soil you'll probably be able to get away with keeping them in the ground. Just give them a good mulch once you’ve cut them back to the ground. However, for everyone else it’s time to lift and store them. Follow these six easy steps to guarantee these, and other tuberous plants such as cannas, last the winter:
- Cut off the spent stems and foliage,
- Carefully lift the dahlias with a garden fork, shake off as much soil as possible and dry off before you store them.
- Lay the tubers upside down in a crate or bin to let them “drain” for a week.
- Put the tubers in pots or trays of deep seed or boxes of vermiculite
- Store the tubers somewhere cool, frost free and out of the reach of rodents.
- Keep them barely moist until you're ready to plant them next spring and summer..
Watch out for slippery paths and decking. Mossy, stone paths and algae-covered decking are lethally slippery. Use a stiff brush to get rid of moss and algae on paving and to brush down decking. Use a proprietary deck cleaner if the wood is really grubby. It’s a good idea to clean up your greenhouse too so that you can get straight into action when spring comes. On the inside chuck out any old packages, broken pots, debris from plants and anything else that looks unsightly.
Do the same for your shed. As the season goes on pots and trays can sometimes get piled up together and when it comes to finding exactly the right one it can be a real pain. Clean them up with a light bleach solution and organise them into size and material. It’s a relief when it comes to potting up your plants and you’ll thank yourself next spring.
Mulching is a must this time of year. Many plants that stay in the ground over winter still like to be kept nice and snug, and the best way to do this is with a good thick layer of mulch. Garden compost, well rotted manure or a dry mulch of leaves or straw are all good options depending on whether you want plants to stay moist and warm(Roses, trees and shrubs) or dry and warm(tubers and bulbs etc). Mulch is an excellent way of keeping beds, borders and vegetable plots full of nutrients, humus, organic matter. It also adds structure to your soil, improving aeration and drainage plus it makes planting much easier.
Start digging a bean trench if you intend to grow peas, beans or sweet peas. All members of the bean family need a rich soil to thrive and by doing this it is a great way of getting the richness into soil. Simply dig a trench about a foot deep and fill the bottom with wet newspaper and layer up with peelings and vegetable waste from your kitchen. Cover the trench with soil and allow it all to rot down over winter. Come the spring you’ll have a rich, fertile soil ready for sowing and planting. Your legumes will love you for it!