Aaaaah, winter: the black cloud determined to rain on the parade of almost every gardener. Trying to get pleasant visual results whilst dealing with snow, sleet and a chronic lack of sun can be tough, but it is doable. That’s why we’ve put together this list of tips on how to prepare your outdoor space for the lean times. (Oh, and during those last few winter mows, remember that you can install a grass catcher on a wide variety of lawn mowers: it’ll save you having to clean up later on.)
Feed the soil
One of the keys to maintaining a garden during the colder months is ensuring that the soil is fed. This is essential, as the inevitable ongoing downpours have a tendency to flush out nutrients within compost stacks, preventing the soil from getting everything it needs to survive during the winter. It’s also a good idea to add compost in Autumn, rather than later on, because in recent years we’ve seen a series of dry springs through which your earth might struggle to maintain the necessary moisture.
Help the wildlife out
Another key part of preparing your garden for winter is to ensure that the wildlife who visit have everything they need. Make sure that those bird-feeders go up, and are kept stocked. Fortunately, it’s fairly cheap to buy bird-feed these days (even stores like Wilkinsons now stock it) so there’s no reason to not buy enough to last until spring. Encouraging the birds to stick around will also mean that they’re around to help you deal with pests during the festive period, which is no bad thing.
Don’t do anymore digging
In previous years, it was considered gardening 101 to the spade out of the garage, and use it to turn over the soil in preparation for the winter. (The conventional wisdom, of course, being that heavy soil would benefit substantially from rain, aeration and frost when it was dug over: especially if it was were clay based.) However, clay-based soil actually thrives when asked to retain nutrients over a long period, due to the clay particles binding together more easily. Therefore, instead of trying to dig everything over, simply ensure that you spread compost out across the soil, and give the earth enough time to absorb the nutrients.
Where possible, save any remaining seeds.
Although almost all of the seeds in your garden will have given up the ghost by this stage in the year, it’s still a good idea to save the few that do remain. (Once rain levels have increased, they’ll be almost impossible to naturally dry out, and won’t be any use.) The best way to salvage seeds is to give them a few hours in a warm room, and to then keep them in a paper bag until they’re ready to be used. Although some people prefer using plastic bags, these actually reduce the seeds ability to breathe, so avoid them if possible.
Don’t get manic about cleaning up
Remember, as a general rule the best approach for almost any garden is a more natural one. Therefore, it’s a good idea to try and allow soil to decay naturally where possible. Don’t feel that you constantly have to force the issue. Remember, your garden will take care of itself once you’ve done the necessary preliminary work, and without the sun there’s little danger of it shooting up and getting on top of you.