With many people self-isolating at the moment because of COVID-19 – your attention may be turning to making the most out of your garden. Here are some top tips to help you relax and make your garden look beautiful at the same time!
- Order summer-flowering bulbs and seeds now.
- Have a general tidy up, removing leaves and other debris from flower beds and borders. You can cut back the old dead growth of deciduous grasses and herbaceous perennials now, although, if you’d like to be wildlife friendly, it’s best to leave these until early spring. Clear borders and beds back to bare soil. Put the dead organic matter you’ve cleared away into your compost pile or bin to break down. If your soil is workable, dig a 5cm layer of organic matter – such as well-rotted manure, compost or recycled green waste – into empty garden borders.
- Now’s the perfect time to give your greenhouse a good clean, ready for the seedlings and cuttings of spring. Wash the outside of your greenhouse with disinfectant or detergent, to remove algae, moss and general grime. This will let in more light during the growing months, while removing potential homes for pests and disease. Make sure you disinfect the inside of the glass too – overwintering pests and disease can survive in the smallest nooks and crannies. Sweep out any plant debris on the floor and benches, and wash with a hot solution of garden disinfectant such as Jeyes Fluid. While you’re there, wash pots and seed trays to help prevent diseases like ‘damping off’ from infecting your young plants. Ventilate your greenhouse well over the next couple of days so it dries thoroughly. Once your greenhouse is clean and shiny, take time to inspect the structure for any damage to glass or vents and replace any broken parts.
- Hunt down and remove hibernating pests now – it will save you a lot of trouble come spring and summer. Take a closer look at the crowns of your perennial plants and check for any slugs, snails and aphid colonies sheltering for the winter. If you still haven’t cleared last year’s pots of summer bedding then do so now, checking for white-vine-weevil larvae, which live in the compost and feed on plant roots. Destroy any larvae that you find and be prepared to treat for vine weevils this year, using parasitic nematodes or chemical drenches.
- Check fence panels, gates and trellis for any sign of weather damage or decay. Fixing any broken structures now will give you more time to spend in the garden during the spring and summer. Replace any broken segments or structures. Next, clean fence panels and gates with a power washer to remove dirt, moss and mildew. Use a stiff brush to help remove stubborn grime. Let the wood dry completely before applying two coats of stain, paint or wood preservative on a dry day.
- Give your tools a clean and a sharpen during the winter months. Maintaining your garden tools will help preserve them, saving you money in the long run and helping prevent the spread of disease. Dirty secateurs are notorious for introducing bacteria and fungi to fresh pruning wounds. Use strong detergent, hot water and a scourer to give bladed tools a thorough clean. Sharpening your tools will also improve their performance; they’ll be easier to work with and will give cleaner pruning cuts. Once sharpened, apply some oil or WD40 to blades and hinges.
- If you haven’t already, now’s a great time to set up a compost area in your garden. This could be as simple as buying a ready-made compost bin or you could build your own using spare wood. A compost area provides somewhere to put all your organic waste. Once it has broken down, you’ll get a lovely, rich compost your plants will thrive on. Make sure you have a good mixture of grass clippings, vegetable peelings, paper and woody prunings. And to help the process along you’ll need to turn your compost with a garden fork each month to keep it aerated.
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