Snowdrops

Garden Jobs in February

There are signs that Spring is just around the corner! Daylight length is increasing. Early spring-flowering bulbs are  peaking through now and buds are plumping up ready to start putting on a display. With the odd sunny day encouraging us to get outside, it’s time to start thinking about what we need to do in the garden this year. So, with that in mind, here is a list of important jobs to do this month.

Flowers

  • Cut back deciduous ornamental grasses that have been left uncut over the winter before new shoots appear. Cut them back to within a few centimetres of the ground
  • Divide large clumps of snowdrops after flowering (commonly referred to as ‘in the green’) and replant to start new colonies
  • Prune late summer-flowering clematis, cutting stems back to healthy buds about 30cm from the base
  • Divide congested clumps of herbaceous perennials and grasses to make vigorous new plants for free
  • Prune winter-flowering shrubs, such as winter flowering jasmine and heathers, once they’ve finished flowering to encourage new growth for next year’s blooms
  • Prune your Wisteria now, cutting back summer side-shoots to 2 or 3 buds
  • Plant bare root roses for summer colour
  • Prune hybrid tea and floribunda roses, before growth restarts
  • Sprinkle slow-release fertiliser around the base of roses and other flowering shrubs

Fruit and veg

  • Finish pruning apple trees and pear trees whilst they are still dormant
  • Protect blossom on apricots, nectarines and peaches
  • Chit potato tubers, standing them in trays (I use empty egg boxes) in a light, frost-free place
  • Prepare veg beds for sowing by covering with a thick mulch of organic matter and then cover over with a sheet to enable the ground to warm up
  • Check empty pots that may be harbouring any overwintering snails

Greenhouse

  • Sow sweet peas in deep pots and keep them in a frost free environment (I use toilet rolls for this). If you planted any sweet peas in autumn, now is the time to pot them on and pinch them out to encourage side shoots
  • Sow tender crops such as tomatoes and chillies in a heated propagator or on a warm sunny windowsill
  • Plant dahlia tubers in trays to encourage shoots to develop, which you can then use as cuttings
  • Wash greenhouse glazing inside and out to let in as much light as possible

Garden maintenance

  • If we are unlucky enough to have any snow fall, knock it off evergreen shrubs, hedges and conifers to prevent any branches snapping under the weight
  • Improve the soil by spreading organic matter over beds
  • Clear away old plant debris from pond margins and scoop out any leaves that have fallen into the water
  • Clean and service mowers and garden power tools, so they’re in good order for spring
  • As roses are hungry plants, spread a layer of well-rotted manure around them and they’ll repay you later on in the year
Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'

Garden Jobs in January

January, a New Year and a perfect excuse to get outside and work off some of the excesses of the festive period!

Here’s a list of important jobs to be getting on with this month:

Flowers

  • Take root cuttings of perennials such as oriental poppies, Acanthus and Verbascums
  • Clear away collapsed stems of perennials
  • Take hardwood cuttings from deciduous shrubs such as forsythia and willow
  • Deadhead winter bedding regularly
  • Continue pruning climbing roses whilst they are dormant
  • Protect plants that are vulnerable to wind and cold
  • Clear out the crowns of plants of damp leaves to prevent rotting

Fruit and Veg

  • Cover soil with fleece or cloches to warm if you plan to sow early crops
  • Prune apple and pear trees to remove any dead, damaged and diseased branches
  • Cover rhubarb plants with a bucket or terracotta pot to force an early crop of tender long stems
  • Order seed potatoes, onions, shallots and garlic bulbs for planting in spring

Greenhouse

  • Sow winter salads in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill and they will be ready for harvesting within a few weeks
  • Move strawberry plants in pots under cover to encourage early fruits
  • Check overwintering plants regularly for pests and moulds and take action where necessary
  • Bring potted peaches into the greenhouse to avoid leaf curl disease
  • Ensure the greenhouse is kept frost free by installing a thermostatically controlled fan heater
  • Start sowing seeds of hardy annuals in pots or trays for early flowering
  • Ventilate the greenhouse on sunny days to prevent humidity building up

Garden Maintenance

  • Top up bird baths with fresh water daily
  • Clean out and scrub bird feeders regularly to maintain hygiene
  • Provide high-energy food for birds to help them through the winter months
  • Keep small areas of ponds free from ice
  • Repair any damaged fences and trellis
  • Service the lawn mower whilst it’s not in use
  • Clean and sharpen your tools, including hoes, secateurs and shears, and spray metal tools with oil
  • Give empty pots and seed trays a thorough scrubbing ready for the start of the sowing season
  • Order seeds and summer-flowering bulbs
Callicarpa bodinieri 'Imperial pearl'

Garden Jobs in December

The days are getting shorter with the temperatures plummeting at the moment. However it can still be a pleasure to be out in the garden, especially on clear frosty, sunny days. The garden takes on a different appearance during winter months, as the layers of perennials have died down it is the evergreens which take up the baton. In any garden it is important to have structure that will provide stability through the seasons.

There can still be colour around too, with winter-flowering heathers, Jasminum nudiflorum and Hamamelis mollis. Along with berries on shrubs such as Callicarpa and Ilex  aquifolium and colourful stems of trees  such as Betula and Acer griseum.

Flowers

  • Continue to cut back faded herbaceous perennials and add them to the compost heap.
  • If the weather remains mild, you can still lift and divide herbaceous perennials. This will increase stocks, and revive tired or poorly flowering clumps.
  • Root cuttings can be taken now, such as Papaver (perennial poppies), Phlox and Anemones.
  • Order seed catalogues, if you have not done so already, to select next year’s bedding and perennial choices.
  • Bring forced bulbs into a warm room to encourage them to flower.

Fruit and veg

  • Place straw around the base of parsnips to prevent the soil freezing, which can make harvesting difficult.
  • Winter prune large fruit trees to control their shape and size, and to increase fruiting productivity for next year.
  • Plan next year’s crops and order seeds .

Greenhouse

  • Pick faded leaves and dead flowers regularly from plants overwintering in the greenhouse, such as pelargoniums.
  • Check that greenhouse heaters are working.
  • If the weather is mild, ventilate the greenhouse.

Garden maintenance

  • Scoop fallen leaves and debris from ponds, leave on the side so pond-life can escape, then add to the compost bin.
  • Insulate outdoor taps and prevent ponds from freezing.
  • Protect terracotta pots from cracking in freezing weather by either bringing them indoors or wrapping in bubble polythene.
  • Raise outdoor patio containers onto feet or bricks to avoid them sitting in the winter wet.
  • Rake up fallen leaves in borders that could be harbouring slugs and other pests.
  • Clean paths to prevent then becoming slippery and repair sheds, fences and trellises.
  • Avoid walking on lawns covered with frost.
Autumnal Tree colour

Garden Jobs in November

Cool, misty mornings and the last leaves clinging to the trees make this a beautiful and melancholy time of year. Ensure that you take some time in between carrying out the tasks below to make the most of this month.

Flowers

  • Plant the last of your autumn bulbs. Tulip bulbs can be planted in pots and borders. Ensure they are covered with at least twice their depth of soil or compost
  • Lift dahlias tubers after the first frost, clean them off and store in dry compost in a cool, frost-proof place
  • Plant bare-root hedging, roses, trees and shrubs, before the weather turns too cold

Fruit and veg

  • Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries to the ground after they have been harvested
  • Plant garlic, shallots and onions, then cover with fleece

Greenhouse

  • Insulate the greenhouse with bubble wrap
  • Check greenhouse plants regularly for any overwintering pests
  • Thoroughly clean greenhouse staging and glazing with disinfectant
  • Ventilate the greenhouse when the weather allows, particularly after watering and when paraffin heaters are used at night

Garden maintenance

  • Check bonfires carefully before lighting to make sure there isn’t any wildlife sheltering inside
  • Continue to mow the lawn if the grass is still growing and the weather is mild but raise the height of the blades
  • Collect any fallen leaves, especially from lawns and ponds, and place in bin bags. Add some water if the leaves are dry and then puncture the bag with a fork. Leave them to decompose into leaf mould
  • Raise outside containers onto pot feet to prevent waterlogging and wrap bubble wrap or hessian around pots outside to protect from frost damage
Purple Tulips

Bulb Planting Season

With the autumn-planting season just around the corner, garden centres and on-line retailers are now stocking spring-flowering bulbs. If you want to ensure that you have the variety you’re after, then now is the time to purchase them.

What to look out for
Try to get big, firm bulbs, as usually the larger they are, the better they flower. Avoid any that are soft or have mould growing on.

Crocuses in Spring timeWhen to plant spring bulbs?
Autumn is the best time to plant spring bulbs as the soil is still warm. Ideally, bulbs such as daffodils, crocus, muscari and hyacinths should be planted by the end of September if you want them to flower early next year.

 

Purple TulipsTulips should be planted a little later in autumn, so aim to wait until November when the soil is cold and this will help to avoid any potential viruses that may be lurking in the soil.

I often plant tulips in pots as this means that after flowering, when there is just the messy foliage left, they can be replaced by something else to extend the flowering season.

 

allium flower

 

You can leave planting of Alliums until early in December to ensure that they flower over summer the following year.

 

 

If planting in a border:

  • Dig a hole wide and deep enough for your bulbs. Most bulbs should be planted two to three times their depth. For example, for a bulb measuring 5cm high, dig a hole 10-15cm in depth and place the bulb in the bottom of it.
  • Ensure that bulbs are placed in the hole with their growing tip facing upwards. If you don’t see a pointy side, look for where the roots are coming out. Sometimes it’s not always obvious, in which case planting them on their side will ensure the shoot grows towards the surface. Space them at least twice the bulb’s own width apart.
  • Cover with soil and gently firm in.
  • If the ground is moist there is no need to water, otherwise water straight after planting.
  • Squirrels often love to dig up freshly planted bulbs. If you think this may be a problem, weigh down some chicken wire over the area to protect the bulbs.

Planting in a container:

  • Use a mix of three parts multi-purpose compost with one part grit as this will help with drainage.
  • Before planting, check that the bulbs are healthy and showing no signs of rot. Plant the bulbs three times their depth and one bulb width apart.
  • Water after planting, ensuring that they don’t dry out. Once you start to see active growth, ensure that they are regularly watered. It will also help at this stage that you start to feed them with a liquid tomato feed. Once they have finished flowering and the foliage begins to die back, stop feeding.

If you find that after buying your bulbs, you forget about them or haven’t had the time to plant them, don’t worry too much. Plant them as soon as you remember. I’ve planted Alliums in late January some years, they will still flower but perhaps just a little later than expected.

pumpkins ready for Halloween

Garden Jobs in October

The nights are drawing in and there is now less time to spend in the garden. However there are still plenty of jobs to do in the garden. Main activities will revolve around clearing up after summer and preparing for the winter and spring ahead.

Here are a list of important jobs to do this month to keep your garden looking good:

Flowers

  • Plant drifts of spring bulbs informally in a lawn, such as crocuses and daffodils
  • Lift tender Cannas and Dahlias to avoid frost damage, dry off the tubers and store in cool dark conditions until spring
  • Plant up pots with winter colour, such as Cyclamen, Winter Pansies and Skimmia
  • Lift and pot up tender perennials to protect them over winter
  • Plant evergreen shrubs and conifer hedges while the soil is still warm
  • Collect seeds from hardy perennials and sow straight away
  • Take hardwood cuttings from ornamental trees and shrubs
  • Reduce the height of shrub roses to avoid wind-rock damage over winter

Fruit and veg

  • Take cuttings of shrubby herbs, such as Rosemary, Lemon Verbena and Thyme
  • Cover salad plants with cloches to prolong cropping
  • Plant garlic cloves in a sunny well-drained spot, 15cm apart, with their tip 5cm below the surface
  • Wrap grease bands around the trunks of apple, pear, cherry and plum trees to trap the crawling female winter moth
  • Cut autumn-fruiting raspberries down to the ground after harvesting
  • Order bare-root fruit trees and bushes for planting from late autumn to early spring

Greenhouse

  • Clean out the greenhouse to get rid of debris that can harbour overwintering pests and diseases
  • Wash greenhouse glazing to let in as much of the weaker autumn daylight as possible
  • Sow quick-growing micro-greens, such as kale and mustard, for nutrient-rich pickings in just a few weeks
  • Line greenhouse glazing with bubble insulation, as night-time temperatures start to drop
  • Water plants more sparingly as conditions turn cooler and the days get shorter
  • Sow sweet peas in deep pots for early flowers next summer
  • Inspect plants you bring into the greenhouse over winter for any pests and diseases

Garden maintenance

  • Rake up fallen leaves from lawns, borders, driveways and paths, and store in bin bags to rot down into leaf mould
  • Spike compacted lawns and brush either sharp sand or horticultural grit into the holes to help improve drainage
  • Apply an autumn lawn feed to revive the grass after the rigours of summer
  • Empty any pots that aren’t frost proof and store in a garage or shed over winter
Dahlia flowers

Garden Jobs in September

This month heralds the start of autumn. Although the days may be getting shorter and temperatures cooler, there is still plenty of interest in the garden, with hints of autumn colour to come.

Here are a list of jobs to do this month.

Flowers

  • Support tall late-flowering perennials
  • Deadhead and feed hanging basket displays to prolong flowering
  • Plant up containers for autumn interest, using cyclamen and other colourful bedding plants
  • Plant out spring-flowering biennials such as wallflowers, pansies and forget-me-nots
  • Plant spring-flowering bulbs
  • Collect seeds from your favourite plants
  • Bring tender potted plants under cover, or take cuttings
  • Start planting new trees, shrubs, climbers and perennials as the soil is still warm
  • Stop feeding trees and shrubs in containers
  • Last chance to force hyacinths for Christmas

Lawn Care
Now is a good time to carry out essential lawn maintenance to avoid waterlogging and compaction.

  • Scarify and aerate established lawns
  • Sand the lawn
  • Feed the lawn with an Autumn fertiliser
  • Reseed bare patches
  • Sow or turf new lawns

Fruit & Veg

  • Harvest marrows and the last courgettes
  • Lift maincrop potatoes, dry off and store
  • Plant out spring cabbage
  • Sow hardy greens such as winter lettuce and kale
  • Continue to harvest apples and pears, and pick autumn-fruiting raspberries
  • Plant onion sets, plant new strawberry plants and sow spring cabbage

Greenhouse

  • As light levels start to fall, remove any shading from your greenhouse towards the end of the month in order that plants receive the maximum amount of light
  • Close greenhouse vents and doors in late afternoons when cool nights are forecast in order to trap in heat overnight
  • Check greenhouse heaters are in good working order
  • Reduce watering and ventilation in the greenhouse
  • Continue to pick off faded blooms and dead leaves from plants before fungal diseases have a chance to take hold

Garden Maintenance

  • Start clearing autumn debris to prevent pests and diseases overwintering
  • Clean out water butts and check downpipe fittings in preparation for autumn rains
  • Remove algae from water features and net ponds to keep out autumn leaves
  • Net ponds to prevent leaves falling into them
August Flowering border

Garden Jobs in August

Although this is traditionally the holiday season (and it may be a little different for everyone this year), it is important to keep on top of some of the routine garden jobs, such as dead-heading, weeding and watering. This could be another dry month in which case watering is essential.

Here are a list of jobs to do this month.

Flowers

  • Summer prune wisteria after flowering by removing all the whippy side-shoots from the main branch framework to about five leaves from the main stem;
  • Prune rambling roses after flowering;
  • Trim lavender once the flowers have faded to maintain a compact, bushy shape, but avoid cutting into old wood;
  • Deadhead roses, dahlias and perennials to encourage a constant display of flowers;
  • Feed and regularly water plants in containers;
  • Take cuttings from tender perennials such as pelargoniums, fuchsias and verbena;
  • Collect ripening seed from plants such as sweet peas and love-in-a-mist that you wish to propagate;
  • Plant autumn bulbs such as colchicums and nerines in pots and borders;
  • Start planting early-flowering biennials such as wallflowers which were sown under cover earlier this year;

Fruit and Veg

  • Lift and pot up new strawberry plants, and keep them well watered;
  • Pick courgettes regularly so they don’t turn into marrows;
  • Divide clumps of chives;
  • Ensure that your fruit crops aren’t eaten by the birds by covering with netting, ensuring the netting stands well clear of the fruit;

Greenhouse

  • Water and feed tomatoes regularly, and remove lower leaves to allow the fruits to ripen;
  • Be vigilant for signs of tomato and potato blight, removing affected plants immediately to prevent spread;
  • Pinch out the tops of outdoor tomatoes, as further flowers are unlikely to produce fruits that have time to ripen;

Garden Maintenance

  • Make sure birds have water in dry spells;
  • Mow less frequently if the weather is hot and dry;
  • Strim or mow areas of wildflower meadow, now that the plants have scattered their seeds;
  • Clear weeds from cracks in paving and driveways before they get established;
  • Now is the time to look at your borders and note any gaps or congested areas that you’ll want to rectify later on in the year;
  • Order spring-flowering bulbs now as stock of the more popular varieties may not be available later in the season. You can start planting bulbs such as narcissi, alliums and crocus from September. Leave planting of tulips to later in November to help prevent problems such as tulip fire as soils are colder and fungal spores are less likely to spread;
Allium Globmaster flowers

The Hampton Hack

The ‘Chelsea Chop’ is a useful trick designed to extend the flowering season of herbaceous plants which is carried out around the time of the Chelsea Flower Show in May – hence the name. It’s too late for that now, however you can rejuvenate any tired July borders by employing the ‘Hampton Hack’, a method that happens to coincide with the Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival.

Shrubs that respond well to the Hampton hack include:

Philadelphus
Weigela
Helianthemums

These can all take quite tough mid-summer pruning which will prolong their life and stop them becoming unattractively untidy or too big for their boots.

Herbaceous plants:

Alchemilla mollis
Astrantias
Herbaceous Geraniums

The degree of cutting back is specific to each species but the closer to flowering time you prune, the greater the delay in flowering. Doing the ‘Hampton Hack’ can delay the flowering of perennials by four to six weeks. You can either prune all the stems on a clump, which delays all the flowers, or just half of them, which spreads the plant’s flowering over a longer period. This can have some positive results:

The plants are not so tall and leggy
They need less staking
The flowers are smaller but more numerous

This happens because the removal of the top shoots enables the side shoots to branch out (the top shoots would normally inhibit the side shoots by producing hormones in a process called apical dominance). Using this method, along with regular feeding and watering, ensures beds and borders look tidy throughout summer.

After Lupins and Delphiniums have finished flowering, chop them down to about 30 cms in height, apply a mulch around their base and a give them a generous drink of water. They’ll start into growth again and may produce additional smaller flowers on shorter stems later on in the year and you’ll have new foliage to look at instead of a yellowing mess.

July Flower border

Garden Jobs in July

At this time of year the garden should be looking great, with plenty of seasonal colour and interest. Hopefully, with more warm sunny evenings on their way, it will allow plenty of time in which to relax and enjoy the garden.

Although there are plenty of jobs to do this month, these can be undertaken at a more leisurely pace.

Flowers

  • Stake taller perennials;
  • Feed, water and deadhead bedding plants and repeat-flowering perennials, to ensure continuous flowering;
  • Cut back early summer perennials, such as hardy geraniums and delphiniums, after flowering for a second flush;
  • Deadhead roses regularly and feed to keep them flowering strongly;
  • Give dahlias a liquid feed and keep them well watered;
  • Water and feed sweet peas regularly, pick the flowers every few days, and remove seed pods to prolong flowering;
  • Look out for pests such as lily beetles, snails, aphids and vine weevils, and remove them before they do much harm;
  • Sow biennials, such as foxgloves, honesty, forget-me-nots and wallflowers for colour next year;
  • Plant autumn bulbs such as nerines and colchicums in pots and borders;

Fruit and Veg

  • Water fruit trees and bushes, then lay a thick mulch of garden compost around their base to hold in moisture;
  • Check crops such as runner beans regularly for aphids, and rub or wash them off straight away, before they multiply;
  • Cover brassicas with fine netting to prevent cabbage white butterflies laying their eggs on the leaves;
  • Peg down strawberry runners into pots of compost to root new plants;
  • Pick courgettes regularly so they don’t turn into marrows;
  • Sow small batches of fast-maturing salad leaves, rocket and radishes every few weeks for continuous pickings;
  • Cut down broad beans after harvesting, but leave the roots in the soil to release nitrogen as they decompose;

Greenhouse

  • Keep well ventilated – open doors and roof windows and apply shading if necessary;
  • Continue pinching out any side-shoots growing from the leaf joints of cordon tomatoes;
  • Water tomatoes daily to prevent drying out, which can lead to split fruits and blossom end rot;
  • Feed tomatoes, chillies and cucumbers with high-potash tomato fertiliser every week to encourage fruiting;
  • Train the main stem of cucumbers up supports and pinch out side-shoots two leaves after a flower or fruit;

Garden maintenance

    • Hoe and hand-weed borders often, in order that weeds won’t have time to set seed;
    • Top up bird baths, ponds and water features during hot weather;
    • Water new trees, shrubs and perennials planted in spring, to help them through dry spells;
    • Keep mowing lawns regularly, but raise the cutting height to leave the grass longer during dry weather;
    • Water hanging baskets and patio containers daily, in the morning or evening is preferable;
    • Deadhead bedding plants, sweet peas and annuals every few days to encourage more flowers;
    • Trim lavender after flowering to keep plants compact and bushy, but avoid cutting into old wood;

There are also some lovely inspiring gardens to visit at this time of year. Currently, due to COVID-19 restrictions, you will have to pre-book tickets in advance before visiting:

Wakehurst Place, West Sussex
Nymans, West Sussex
RHS Wisley, Woking, Surrey
Kew Gardens, Richmond, Surrey