Winter has started with some changeable weather and frosts but so far there has not been any extremes. Now that the shortest day is past, our thoughts turn to the Winter work around the garden.

Pruning fruit trees and roses are the main plants for this time of the season but other shrubs and trees can also be pruned; it is often easier to see the shape and branches to be cut while the leaves are off.

Many perennial plants may be cut back as soon as the tops have died off, they can also be lifted and divided to keep them healthy and from getting too big.

I always remove the dead leaves from over the hostas as I think it helps to remove eggs of slugs that may over Winter in the crowns of the plants.

The poppies and pansies that I planted in the Autumn are starting to flower and remind me to remove spent flowers from any plants that are in bloom to encourage continual flowering.

Many Spring bulbs will be starting to emerge so one needs to be careful when working in and around the garden so as not to damage them. The very big old leaves on hellebores can be cut back so that the flowers will then be seen above the plants.

In the vegetable garden garlic, shallots and broad beans may be planted, green crops dug in and lime incorporated into the areas where brassicas are going to be planted in the Spring.

On those nice sunny afternoons it is a good time to weed around the leeks and other vegetable plants so that they will keep on growing without competition from the weeds, which always seem to grow faster than the plants.

Now is the time to lift and divide rhubarb, replant in soil with plenty of compost and fertiliser, and in an area that gets plenty of sun and can be well watered.

Renew geranium plants by taking cuttings now before the frosts cut them back too hard.

During the colder days while inside in the warmth take time to think about the coming season and plan what plants, seeds and fertilisers etc… that you need and also consider if there are any plants in the garden that may be past it and may be better replaced. By doing that one can spread the cost over a longer period of time rather than trying to do it all at one time in the Spring.

Good gardening!

Michael Coulter