Working & Planning | Gardening with Geoff Moss

by Geoff Moss

Gardener’s Diary with Geoff Moss
“The only moss you want in the garden”

What to do now Winter is upon us!

I’m afraid winter is upon us, but there is still plenty to sort out with the garden. The tasks, however, can be split into two main categories; ‘organising’ and ‘hands on’ because there will be days that are crisp and dry and sunny when hands-on tasks can be done, then there will be days that are cold damp and horrible, great days for doing the organising and planning tasks. The winter is a great time to take stock of the garden and plan for the next season because there is no plant growth from perennials getting in the way and the trees and shrubs have mainly dropped their leaves (except evergreens of course!) which means you can see the structure of the plants and the garden more easily.

This is where our two categories come from because there are many tasks in the garden involved with organising various parts of the garden including garden plans, ordering/buying  seeds or bulbs, tidying and organising tools and equipment, border plans, technical drawings for structures. These tasks are all items that can be carried out inside or at least in the  shelter of a garage or shed so they are just right for those horrible days that just don’t want to clear up in the weather. It is also important to carry out these tasks at this time of year as  in mid-season there are too many other jobs to do to have time to look at these areas of looking after the garden.

However, if planning and organisation is not done you can quickly find yourself confused with what is required or wasting time trying to find that particular trowel, or fixing the spade that got broken last season.

Our second category is just as important, though, which is the hands-on tasks and include appropriate pruning, moving shrubs and trees, repairing or making paths, creating garden structures, renovating or creating  fences and walls, reshaping borders, minor landscaping works. These jobs are, of course, items that require those nicer crisp, dry and sunnier days and are just as important to get sorted. If this work is not carried out in the winter, then you might find during the coming season that you don’t have that particular path for access or the garden is open to the road to the side but you can’t reach the boundary because there are valuable  perennials in full growth or your plants are damaging each other from being too close together.

It’s funny how many people say to me that I must be quiet during the winter or wonder what I do in the winter months when the reality is that all these jobs are ready and waiting at the end of each season. So why not take  a look at your own garden and see what tasks need doing over the winter months, particularly those that will help you get a head start when the new season starts.

At this point we can return to those lists we started making during the summer – one of maintenance tasks and one of projects in the garden – because I’m sure there will be some items on there that were related to the  winter months or perhaps are jobs that are more suited to when the plants have stopped growing e.g. tidying and maintaining the garden tools, building a retaining wall required in the garden. As you can see, it’s well  worth reviewing these lists at different times of year as it can remind you of tasks that are suited to the time of year or they can help you be more efficient and organised in the garden. Let’s take a break and have a look at top tips for these two months:

Tasks to do: December/January

  • Move conifers that need a new space from now till end of January while temperatures are low (as long as ground is not frozen)
  • Create a brighter part of the garden by hanging lights in trees or conifers
  • Plant hyacinths in planting dishes, leave in the open for natural growth or put in a dark cupboard to force on for Christmas
  • Write or sketch ideas for areas in the garden that require attention
  • Tidy and organise sheds, garages or other storage areas
  • Repair and create access paths
  • Order seeds for the new season, especially early sowing varieties
  • Plant bare root trees and shrubs over the winter months (as long as ground is not frozen).

Once you’ve had chance to ponder these ideas for your own garden, we can return to our management lists and we will look at how else they can be used. As I have said before, there is a maintenance list and a project list  so I want you to look at each list and start planning what you will do in the coming season. What maintenance tasks are you going to tackle and when can they be done? Likewise is there a project you would really like to work on? When does this need to be done? How will it be carried out? And how much will it cost? Or maybe there are a few smaller projects so what order will you do them in?

Researching your projects and planning maintenance is a great job for those bad weather days but as you can see they could take a bit of time to work out, so make sure you work at them while the weather is not good, then  when the better weather comes along you won’t be distracted by the planning and can get on with progressing the garden. Now for the more relaxing part of the column where we look at collecting ideas and  knowledge for our gardens. As we are in the winter months, the best way to find knowledge is by looking through different forms of reading material be it books, magazines, articles on the internet or any other form of  material that incorporates pictures as well as writing.

I know this may seem a bit of an easy option for me writing this column but if I explain you will see the value of this type of reference. As you will now see I always add some pictures relevant to my article; this is because  the pictures aid the imagination so it is best to find reading material that has both pictures and words. By looking at different forms of written and pictorial reference you will begin to inspire your imagination and you will come across ideas that could fit your own garden, so put your feet up, relax, and explore the world of your imagination for your own garden.

Once we get out of the cold and damp winter weather, we will look next time at preparing for the coming season and how we can use our lists, planning and developing management skills to make the most of the new season. Before that though, don’t forget to send me your thoughts on how it’s all going through the ‘contact us’ button on my website. Happy gardening and remember the other ways to find me:

Listen to Geoff on BBC Radio Lancashire, Gardening and Outdoors Show, Sundays 11am-2pm (usually 3rd or 4th Sunday between 1pm and 2pm)
Shackleton’s Home and Garden, Clitheroe Road, Chatburn (usually 2nd Sunday)
Look out for my sign written van – Garden Visions.