“So what do professional gardeners do in the winter months?“
It’s a question I get asked all the time. A lot of people assume there’s not a lot that can be done in the garden during the winter, however this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact I have a little saying “what you don’t get done over winter, never gets done.”
The weather might be on the colder side, but it’s a great time to do some of the heavier tasks like digging over vegetable beds, as the ground will be a lot easier to work this time of year.
Don’t forget to protect your perennials during the cold winter months!
Give all your borders a good mulch of compost at least 4 inches thick. This will protect your perennials from the worst of the winter frosts, feed the plants and enrich the soil. Best of all, when the weather eventually warms up, it will stop lots of the weeds. That’s got to be a winner.
Tree work is always best done over winter, as the sap is down and the tree will be dormant. There’s also less disease floating around in the air that could get into fresh cuts and pass on diseases.
Also, with the leaves off of the trees you can better see the shape of the tree and what the branches are doing much easier.
Remember the three D’s: Dead, Diseased and Dying.
Make sure to remove any branches that are rubbing together as this can also lead to disease and fungal infections.
Lifting and dividing perennials is best left until the weather improves slightly however it’s a good idea to make notes, or take photos of your border in summer. Some perennials will be more dominant in the border than others and can take over if not kept in check. Simply dig them up and divide them. They can be moved to fill gaps in another part of the border or given away to friends and family. Who doesn’t love a free plant!
The compost bins will need looking at. Undoubtedly your good intentions of mixing them every few weeks and adding the right ratio of carbon and nitrogen have gone down the pan but don’t let that bother you. Just build a new bin and move the contents from the old one. Mix in equal measures of straw and grass clippings.
If you managed to make some decent compost last year now is the time to put all those lovely nutrients back into the beds. Your plants will thank you for it in the spring.
Another thing that tends to get forgotten about over winter is the greenhouse. I use mine to store all my tender plants that live in pots on the patio over summer. It’s important to remember fungus can thrive in warm moist conditions. The trick is to air it out on walmer days and give the glass a good clean with fungicidal wash before spring gets going.
If the winter isn’t too cold you can use your greenhouse to grow winter salad, and to start seedlings.
Frosty cold fresh mornings in January and February are some of the best memories I have as a professional gardener. There is something magical about being out and about in the cold crisp air, and definitely a feeling of satisfaction when you eventually get home. There is plenty to be done over the winter months and a great deal of accomplishment knowing you have pushed the garden on to be even better when spring finally arrives.