Winter Gardening Guide

For many of us, winter means taking things slow and easy. The days are shorter, the temperatures are colder, and our beds look more inviting with every degree drop. However, though it may be painful to hear, the coming of winter doesn’t mean that you can completely abandon the garden. There are still a few jobs that will need doing, especially in the build-up to the worst of winter, and you can even start getting ahead on next spring already. So we’re here to help the three million people who took up gardening for the first time over the past year[i], plus the experienced gardeners who need a bit of a pick me up with the harsh winter we’re expecting. Here is a simple guide with advice on how gardeners can support their winter garden this year to see it through to spring. 

Gardening Jobs For Winter

Despite what you might think, quite a few jobs need completing in the garden each month over winter. Just because the cold’s starting to make you shut down doesn’t mean your garden will follow suit! Although most of these jobs are relatively simple, they are vital to the health of your garden over the next year, so try and stay on top of them even in the coldest months.

 November

  • Deadhead dying blooms and prune summer shrubs before the frosts set in.
  • Ensure that plant structures are stable and mend any that aren’t.
  • Avoid walking on the grass so as not to damage it.
  • Protect plants from the cold with cloches.
  • Dig garden beds now if you have clay soil to improve its structure.
  • Set up feeders for birds and leave out a little food for other wildlife, such as hedgehogs
  • Create a compost heap for healthier plants in the spring.
  • Cover the ground of allotments or empty garden beds with cardboard or landscaping fabric. Weight this down with wood or bricks.
  • Plant any flower bulbs for winter colour.

December

  • Tidy and clean your tools now to save you a job in early spring when you’ll need them.
  • Bring in your Christmas tree if you’re growing your own, and leave it for a few hours before decorating so it can open up properly.  
  • Plan for the year ahead by noting what you will need and what you can do differently next year.
  • Plant garlic, rhubarb, raspberries, blackberries and bare-root fruit trees and bushes now, so long as the soil isn’t waterlogged or frozen over.
  • Harvest any crops that you have grown and store up all the root vegetables for future use.

January

  • Order the fruit, vegetable and flower seeds that you want to plant in the spring now to avoid late disappointment.
  • Prune fruit trees while they are dormant, and it is safe to do so.
  • Begin sowing vegetables indoors, so they are ready to be planted in the spring.
  • Divide snowdrops and similar bulbs immediately after they’ve flowered and replant them at least 30 cm apart.

February

  • Prepare vegetable seed beds, plan what you will be planting and where.
  • Sow any necessary vegetables undercover.
  • Chit potato tubers by allowing them to start sprouting shoots before planting.
  • Protect apricot, nectarine and peach blossoms with fleece to stop frost damage.
  • Cover fruit and vegetable plants with netting to keep birds off.
  • Prune hardy evergreen shrubs before growth starts.
  • Cut back deciduous grasses and remove dead grass from lawns.
  • Plant fresh snowdrops and other bulbs in the green now.

Winter Garden Plants

Despite not much happening in the flowerbeds over winter, there are still several plants you can sow and grow inside and out during the colder months. Since the ground is likely to be hard and impossible to predict, you may want to start many of these winter garden plants indoors; however, all of these seeds will survive the cold temperatures.

Winter Garden Fruit

  • Rhubarb Crowns
  • Raspberry Canes
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Gooseberries

Winter Garden Vegetables

  • Pak Choi
  • Onions
  • Asparagus Crowns
  • Winter Gem Lettuce
  • Broad Beans
  • Rhubarb Crowns
  • Celery
  • Spring Onions
  • Spinach

Winter Garden Herbs

  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Dill
  • Chives
  • Mint

Winter Garden Flowers

  • Sweet Peas
  • Daffodil Bulbs
  • Christmas Roses
  • Hyacinth Bulbs
  • Roses
  • Heather
  • Tulip bulbs
  • Bare-root Native Hedges
  • Bare-root Colourful Hedges
  • Begonias
  • Geraniums

Winter Garden Trees

  • Magnolia Trees
  • Bare-root Apple Trees
  • Bare-root Pear Trees
  • Bare-root Apricot Trees
  • Bare-root Peach Trees
  • Bare-root Cherry Trees
  • Bare-root Plum Trees
  • Bare-root Quince Trees
  • Bare-root Medlar Trees

Winter Garden Wildlife

Since only three of the U.K.’s wildlife species hibernate[ii], your garden may get a lot busier than you expect during winter. This is because many animals naturally adapt to the drop in temperatures with fluffier coats or a new colour, so try leaving out a little food and a saucer of regularly topped-up water to encourage them in.

Some of the species of wildlife that may pass through your garden are:

  • Red Squirrels
  • Grey Squirrels
  • Rabbits
  • Hedgehogs
  • Foxes
  • Frogs
  • Badgers
  • Dormice
  • Bats
  • Grass snakes

Winter Garden Birds

Alongside these varied wildlife species, you can also expect to see quite a few garden birds throughout winter. Since birds are active throughout the season, they will be looking for fresh food and clean water regularly, so leave some bird-friendly sources out to encourage some new feathered friends into your garden.

Some of the birds you may see include:

  • Owls
  • Woodlarks
  • Robins
  • Chaffinches
  • Blackbirds
  • Woodpeckers
  • Blue Tits
  • Goldcrests
  • Redwings
  • Waxwings

How To Attract Wildlife In Winter

Wildlife will be looking for safe places to feed, drink and take shelter, so dot these things around your garden to attract different species. Things you can add to your garden that will attract a range of wildlife include:

  • Fruits, nuts, seeds, root vegetables and table scraps (Place these in easily accessible saucers on the floor and update daily.)
  • Saucer of fresh water replaced daily.
  • Bird feeders
  • Bird boxes
  • Birdbaths
  • Bat boxes
  • Hedgehog homes
  • Frog/toad shelters
  • Insect/bee hotels
  • Wood piles
  • Compost heaps
  • Logs/tree trunks with accessible holes drilled in

For more information on how you can help garden wildlife this winter, take a look here.

FAQs

How Do I Put The Garden To Bed For Winter?

To fully protect their gardens through winter, many gardeners like to put them to bed. Putting your garden to bed requires a few different steps but is necessary for a healthy garden. To set your garden to bed for winter, you should:

  • Cute back perennials that require pruning in late autumn and early winter
  • Pull out fading annual plants
  • Clean up overgrown areas of the garden
  • Remove weeds
  • Clean garden tools
  • Get anything that needs planting done before the ground begins to freeze
  • Protect tender plants or any that animals may eat

How Do I Prepare My Vegetable Garden For Winter?

Once you’ve harvested your vegetables (and likely eaten them!), it’s time to prepare your vegetable garden for the cold. To do this, all you have to do is:

  • Remove any spent crops and old compost – you can add these to a compost heap.
  • Dispose of any plants that show signs of insect issues or diseases.
  • Remove any weeds.
  • Remove any unused ties, trellises and stakes and put them into storage once dry.
  • Test the soil and plan for any improvements if desired.
  • Till the soil, and add some fresh manure.
  • Plant cover crops, if using.
  • Plant any vegetables that will grow through winter, such as garlic.
  • Reflect on what went well and what didn’t in your vegetable garden last year, and take note, so you do things differently next year.

When Should I Cut Back My Garden For Winter?

It’s best to cut back your garden in late autumn and definitely before the first frost. However, some plants need their foliage for protection through winter, so make sure you do your research before starting pruning.  

Should I Cover My Garden In The Winter?

As long as you don’t churn or till your soil, your garden should survive the winter. However, churning or tilling the soil means that all the beneficial nutrients will be exposed to harsh conditions and kill the chances of a blooming garden next year. If you are worried, you can use mulch or tarp to ensure complete protection.

How To Clean Garden Tools For Winter

You won’t be using your gardening tools over winter, so give them a good clean and store them safely away for an easy beginning to next spring. Rid your equipment of any caked mud with a washing-up liquid and warm water mix, then oil and sharpen them. Treat their handles in the same way to ensure that all your tools will be ready for next year. Store all your tools in a shed, garage, cupboard or storage box.

How To Store Garden Furniture In Winter

Before storing your garden furniture, make sure that you clean it properly and treat it if it’s wooden. You can keep outdoor furniture in a shed, garage or storage box over winter, or you can cover it with furniture covers or tarpaulin if they can’t be stored. Make sure that any covers are secured, and the bottom of the furniture is elevated off the ground.

Sources

  [i] https://www.itv.com/news/meridian/2021-01-26/winter-wonders-gardening-continues-to-prove-popular-in-the-latest-lockdown 

[ii] https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/read-this/these-are-the-animals-that-hibernate-in-the-uk-in-winter-and-why-they-do-it-3035576

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