Monday 21 September 2020, 03:00 GMT

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What to do in the Garden - Second Week of January

Another week of extreme temperatures and snow make it almost impossible to do a lot of gardening.


Psychologists would have a field day with me as at 2.30am on Wednesday morning I was awake and excited watching the snow fall! A psychologist would definitely tell me it relates to my childhood and I think they might be correct because you see I can honestly associate snow with the birth of Jesus, a visit by Father Christmas, presents and days off school!


It really is a time to sit indoors keep warm and plan the year ahead! (and of course if it is Sunday morning stay in and listen to me on Phoenix98FM!)  A time to leaf through catalogues and gardening magazines for inspiration.


A couple of catalogues that landed on my door mat this week were:-


Mr Fothergill’s Summer Garden Plant Catalogue and their Fruit and Veg Plant Catalogue. 73 pages of lovely glossy pictures on everything you could want for the garden from fruit and veg to bedding plants, herbaceous and chrysanthemums.


But if it is Chrysanthemums you want you could do no worse than go to Woolmans who have been growing chrysanthemums for over 120 years. Their catalogue is packed with all sorts of Chrysanths from the Spoon Petal types, large Exhibition types to Patio Pot Mums.


Last Sunday I was going to warn you of the perils of buying houseplants from outdoor greengrocer shops but did not think that even they would be silly enough to place them outside.   However I was “had” by a large local garden centre when I bought an orchid from them last Sunday. A few days later a couple of buds dropped off then on Wednesday I noticed the leaves going yellow - a sure sign that they have endured a spell of cold. Not surprising I hear you say, but it still should not have happened. The garden centre was probably shut for a couple of days between Christmas and New Year when the temperatures were pretty cold.  Most garden centres are pretty good about giving you a refund on plants that have died fairly soon after you have bought them so it is worth taking them back. Needless to say I did let them know and have been promised some vouchers. Be warned!


This actually happened to me once.  I used to work for Croydon Parks Department and stayed at a lovely cottage on the edge of their very large nursery that produced all their bedding plants. They also had a tropical glasshouse on site. Being on the edge of the nursery I had an alarm bell in the house to warn me if the temperature fell in the glasshouses. We had been living there for five months and had never heard the alarm go off, however on a very cold Christmas Eve the alarm went off at 4pm! There were two pumps that pumped around the hot water from the boiler to the greenhouses and the staff took it turns to switch one off and the other on. Needless to say they turned one off and forgot to turn the other on. Consequently no hot water was getting through and three days later all the leaves started dropping on the tropical plants.


Talking of tropical plants……. Have you made sure that your tropical outdoor plants that would normally survive our mild winter are covered and really well protected?  I guess we will see a few casualties this winter.


It was so nice working from home this week watching the birds, robin, thrush, blackbird, tits and magpies hop around the garden. Jenny Wren was going up and down the ivy seeking out tasty morsels. Five minutes later the cat came in with her very own tasty morsel!  I was SO angry with her! I now have no wrens in the garden. I read a few weeks ago that cats eat something like 100 birds a year! We have promised not to get anymore cats after this one! We said that the last time!


And the weather………………… well the weather forecasters are not saying how long this cold snap will last but we all know how long a week is and in theory by next week we could have no snow so below is some work that you could be doing if the weather changes!  Fingers crossed.



Flower Garden


  • Cut back ornamental miscanthus grass before new shoots start developing.
  • Trim back ivy and Virginia creeper from around windows and guttering.
  • Clear away dead foliage from perennials, chop it up and add to the compost heap
  • Pot up containers with spring bedding displays. Most garden centres will have their plants under cover.



Fruit and Vegetable Garden


  • Continue filling a trench with kitchen waste where you want to grow beans
  • Cover rhubarb with forcing jars for an early harvest
  • Use cloches to warm the soil for early sowings
  • Plant new fruit bushes and trees, but only if there is no frost on the ground!
  • Buy shallots, onion sets and seed potatoes
  • Shake snow off netted fruit cages.


In the Greenhouse



  • Top up fuel tank of paraffin heater every evening
  • Bring potted hyacinths and bulbs under cover to bloom
  • Make a sowing plan for raising greenhouse crops and bedding plants, and order seeds
  • Bring potted peaches under cover to prevent an attack of leaf curl
  • Water pot plants sparingly and avoid wetting foliage. Never leave plants standing in water
  • Regularly pick off faded leaves and flowers to avoid grey mould (botrytis) developing



Generally around the Garden



  • Tidy up piles of flowerpots and debris that could harbour snails
  • Raise patio containers on feet or bricks, to ensure their compost drains properly
  • Avoid walking on lawns covered with heavy frost, as you'll kill the grass
  • Provide birds with fresh water and food
  • Sprinkle an all-purpose fertiliser along the base of hedges
  • Move patio pots to sheltered sites during extremely cold periods. If you have not done this already I fear you might be too late.
  • Order bulbs, corms and tubers for summer flowers, including dahlias, canna lilies, gladioli, eucomis and lilies

Happy Gardening till next week.




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