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Not so bleak midwinter

December 3rd 2013
By: Melanie Hollidge

Winter is the coldest season of the year but for gardeners, it can still be a bright and busy one.  Taking care of pots and containers, repairing parts of the garden and planning for the next season, fill up the list of ‘things to do’.  With the majority of plants and flowers dying back, it’s time to think ahead and visualise your ideal garden.  Using books, television programmes and the internet for inspiration, we’re spoilt for choice with ideas and information.
 
Essential jobs for the winter include checking the wrapping and protection of your pots and containers.  They should have been wrapped in cloths or bubblewrap, or moved into a sheltered position.  Take time to ensure the wrappings are still intact and haven’t been eaten or taken by the wildlife that frequents your garden when you’re not looking!
 
If you have a patio, or decking area, now’s the time to remove the slimy patches that appear. If you have a pressure washer, then use it to clean the algae or scrub it with a broom and bucket of water.  There are detergents especially for this sort of job, check with your local garden centre for the right one for your surface.
 
During mild winters, it’s fine to keep mowing the grass – just make sure the blades are set on a higher level than during the height of summer.
 
Start digging over any empty areas and prune apple and pear trees.  If there are sunny days, don’t forget to leave a window open in your greenhouse – but do remember to close it before the sun goes down.
 
Remember to leave water and food out for birds and wildlife visitors to your garden, food is still hard for them to find at this time of the year.  See if you recognise any birds that visit regularly – it’s always good to see a familiar face!  There is a huge variety of bird feeders available to suit all gardens – from free standing bird tables, to feeders on stakes, as well as feeders that can be hung from trees, arbours and gazebos.
 
When the temperature begins to rise, and blossom starts to arrive on the trees, it’s a good idea to protect the blossom on the fruit trees.  It’s time to start sowing vegetables under cover and cover up any vegetable and fruit crops because the birds will have them as easy pickings!
 
One of the best jobs must surely be looking through the seed catalogues and planning your garden for the summer.  Take some squared paper and measure out your flower beds, draw a plan of your garden and get creative.  Use some coloured pencils, or cut out the pictures and make a collage of how you would like it to look in full bloom.  Create a mood board for your garden and use it as inspiration until the garden starts to wake up and come to life again….