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Swing Into Spring

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

The New Year is here again and I’m eager to get back into the garden after too much indulging over Christmas. But the long dark winter mornings and nights are still lingering and the freezing weather provides excuses for me to put off the jobs I know I could be doing. So for those who need the motivation (including myself), here’s my top 10 fun activities which can be spread over January and February. Get back into the swing of things and set yourself up ready for spring.

Reading Favourite Gardening Books
Have a day (snug in bed or on the sofa with a coffee) flicking through favourite garden books.

1. A weekend of reading and planning garden improvements. Get out all your favourite garden books and have a day flicking through (snug in bed or on the sofa with a coffee). Or if you prefer log onto Pinterest and delve into the depths of gardening ideas all day long. Make notes/book mark pages of interest and start thinking about improvements to your own outdoor space. On the second day put these ideas onto paper. Start by sketching a rough drawing of your plot and the structures which have to remain. Use tracing paper on top to add in new areas, paths, seating areas or borders. If the whole garden is too daunting, start with just one area or border and focus on plants rather than design. Remember to check which plants grow best in which aspects and soils. Winter is the best time to redesign your garden because you can see what is there without the plants and flowers and see what interest is visually missing in the winter.

2. Visit gardens to get inspiration for winter interest (see my Blog ‘Winter Wonderland at Lyme’) Many people would hold off visiting gardens until the spring or summer, thinking that there’s nothing to see in winter. But this is where they are greatly mistaken. If a garden has been well-designed and looked after, there should be excitement waiting for you around every corner even in the coldest months. Think of; frost covered seed heads, red holly berries, bright orange stems of Cornus and towering yellow Mahonia blooms. Not to mention the mystery created by gaps in yew hedging, the winter framework of pleached trees or the shapes of oversized terracotta pots.

3. Treat yourself to a morning at a garden centre. With your new plans and plant wish list in your pocket, head for a good quality local nursery or garden centre. Spend an hour wandering and looking, take photos, make notes of prices if you are unsure of buying straight away. Many garden centres are now divided into helpful areas too such as plants for shade, sun etc. Head to the café for a hot chocolate if it all gets too much and come back another day!

4. Sow seeds indoors (see my blog ‘Sowing The Seeds of Love’). Many seeds can be sown as early in the year as January and February. Make your wish list from annuals, perennials, vegetables and fuit, get online or in a garden centre and stock up on seed packets, seed trays, compost and crack on. You will never regret a day spent seed sowing.

Sowing Seeds Indoors
You will never regret a day spent seed sowing.

5. Tidy out the shed and greenhouse. It’s a job many of us put offsheddoorphobia-the fear of opening the shed door is a real one! Sheds now filled with old toys, broken tools, discarded electricals instead of clean tools, pots and gardening equipment. Put on some old clothes, open the boot of your car ready for a tip trip, out the kettle on, take a deep breath and brave it even just for an hour!! When you have even a corner of space again- clean and sharpen tools, wash out trays and pots. Sit back in your newly found deckchair and look forward to the months of gardening ahead!

Tidying up the garden
Cut back any untidy old perennial plant growth and seed heads.

6. Spend a day with the secateurs tidying up the garden. Choose a dry day and cut back any untidy old perennial plant growth and seed heads. Shape box balls, hedges and other evergreens. Remember to put the soft cuttings in your compost and you could make animal habitats from the woody stems at the back of hedges and corners of the garden.

7. Mend or add more structures or; arches, fences, pergolas. Now is the time before the plants grow up them to mend (or get someone else to) any wooden or metal frames and structures which have been blown down or broken in the bad weather. Consult your plans and add new focal points or routes into the garden by building a simple rose arch connecting two areas or a screen to divide create two distinct ‘rooms’.

8. Improve your soil. Plant health starts with the roots and so the condition of the soil which you plant into is of upmost importance but gets overlooked so regularly. This is the right time (Autums-late winter) to add a thick layer of organic matter; well rotted horse manure or garden compost either on a new bare bed or around shrubs and perennials (be careful leave a ring of bare soil as not to rot the roots). This ‘mulching’ not only improves the soil condition especially if you have very clayy or sandy soil but also hinders weeds by blocking out the light. You can also add a layer of cardboard before putting don the compost to further assist against weeds. This ‘no dig’ method is both better for the soil as you don’t endanger compacting it in wet weather and for your back!

Improve Your Soil
The condition of the soil which you plant into is of upmost importance.

9. If you have any energy and time left then plant up some summer bulbs - in tubs and in the ground (if the ground isn’t frozen). There are a wide variety of summer flowering bulbs, tubers and corms available including; Alliums, Eremus (Foxtail Lillies) and Crocosmia for a bright, exciting summer garden.

10. Plant bare root roses, shrubs and trees and some perennials. Again as long as the ground isn’t frozen then Autumn and winter are actually the best times to give these plants a head start before spring. Bare rooted shrub roses and other shrubs and trees are actually much cheaper than pot planted ones which are available all year round. The advice now from the RHS is to simply dig a hole – square not round, deep enough for the plant to sit at ground level, water slightly, place the plant in the hole and back fill with the soil you removed. Press firmly around the root with your feet or hands. Again mulch on top after planting to give extra fertility.

Plant Bare Root Roses
Plant bare root roses, shrubs and trees and some perennials.


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