So what do professional gardeners do in the winter months?

winter gardening tips frozen leaves kent

So what do professional gardeners do in the winter months?

It’s a question I get asked all the time. A lot of people assume there’s not a lot that can be done in the garden during the winter, however this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact I have a little saying “what you don’t get done over winter, never gets done.”

The weather might be on the colder side, but it’s a great time to do some of the heavier tasks like digging over vegetable beds, as the ground will be a lot easier to work this time of year.

Don’t forget to protect your perennials during the cold winter months!

how to protect perennials during winter in the UK

Give all your borders a good mulch of compost at least 4 inches thick. This will protect your perennials from the worst of the winter frosts, feed the plants and enrich the soil. Best of all, when the weather eventually warms up, it will stop lots of the weeds. That’s got to be a winner.

garden tree in the winter maidstone kent

Tree work is always best done over winter, as the sap is down and the tree will be dormant. There’s also less disease floating around in the air that could get into fresh cuts and pass on diseases.

Also, with the leaves off of the trees you can better see the shape of the tree and what the branches are doing much easier.

Remember the three D’s: Dead, Diseased and Dying.

 Make sure to remove any branches that are rubbing together as this can also lead to disease and fungal infections.

winter frost berries on tree in maidstone

Lifting and dividing perennials is best left until the weather improves slightly however it’s a good idea to make notes, or take photos of your border in summer. Some perennials will be more dominant in the border than others and can take over if not kept in check. Simply dig them up and divide them. They can be moved to fill gaps in another part of the border or given away to friends and family. Who doesn’t love a free plant!

winter composting snow gardens.jpg

The compost bins will need looking at. Undoubtedly your good intentions of mixing them every few weeks and adding the right ratio of carbon and nitrogen have gone down the pan but don’t let that bother you. Just build a new bin and move the contents from the old one. Mix in equal measures of straw and grass clippings.

If you managed to make some decent compost last year now is the time to put all those lovely nutrients back into the beds. Your plants will thank you for it in the spring.

winter greenhouse cold weather agriculture

Another thing that tends to get forgotten about over winter is the greenhouse. I use mine to store all my tender plants that live in pots on the patio over summer. It’s important to remember fungus can thrive in warm moist conditions. The trick is to air it out on walmer days and give the glass a good clean with fungicidal wash before spring gets going.

If the winter isn’t  too cold you can use your greenhouse to grow winter salad, and to start seedlings.

Frosty cold fresh mornings in January and February are some of the best memories I have as a professional gardener. There is something magical about being out and about in the cold crisp air, and definitely a feeling of satisfaction when you eventually get home. There is plenty to be done over the winter months and a great deal of accomplishment knowing you have pushed the garden on to be even better when spring finally arrives.

Do I need to clean my pruning shears? How Do I prevent rust and bacteria from developing on my secateurs?

how to clean gardening shears

Do I need to clean my pruning shears? How do I prevent rust and bacteria from developing on my secateurs?

From cutting away branches and pruning shrubs to gently snipping a beautiful flower to display in a vase, your shears can be one of the most important tools in your garden.

The one thing you don’t want is to spread harmful diseases, eggs and bacteria from plant to plant.

The blades of your shears can easily start to rust, become dirty, become sticky with sap and develop bacteria that can infect your healthy plants, however this can be prevented with these simple and helpful tips.

Use a stiff brush with a bucket of warm soapy water. Washing-up liquid works best, it is easy to rinse off and doesn’t leave a harsh chemical residue on the blades.

Use steel wool If the blades have started to rust. Sandpaper can be used as well.

After washing and rinsing, soak your shears for a few minutes in a pail of water mixed with a spoonful of bleach to destroy bacteria, eggs and other harmful organisms on your blades.

After soaking, dry them well with a cloth or air dry them.

Once they are dried, spray lubricating oil on them to prevent them from rusting.

Make sure to keep your shears hung and out of the elements when not in use.

Follow these simple steps and you will find this valuable garden tool will provide you with many, many years of quality service.

Helpful tips for easy gardening with hassle free plants

Some plants are high maintenance and even though they may be beautiful, they are not always worth the time and money you may need to spend on them.

There are many great plant choices for a low maintenance garden or patio.

Try to avoid plants which require stakes, netting, support strings, etc. Delphiniums are just one example of these high maintenance plants.

Hostas are just one of the many plants that rabbits and slugs love. Try to find plants that don’t taste delicious to pests and you will save yourself time and headache. Send us a message if you’d like advice on pest free plants. 

Plants that climb can become very burdensome. Vine plants like ivy cling to walls and if not controlled, will take over walls, fences and other plants. Also clinging plants may need support which means lots of tying.

Shrubs, Daphne, Lavender, Holly and Euonymus are great choices for low maintenance plants and they alternate their colours throughout the seasons making your garden area beautiful and ever changing. You can also keep them in pots to easily transfer them inside when you like.

You can save yourself time and headache with a watering system. Whether you choose a top of the line automated system or a simple leaky hose setup which lets the water seep out along your plant beds you will find your plants are happy and you are happy.

Pergolas, arbours, arches, statues and fences can be relatively simple to install and may not be as expensive as you think. They can liven up a garden or patio dramatically and may even be used to block unsightly views like breaker boxes. They have the added bonus of not requiring extra maintenance on your part.

Have a bad back? Use long tables with potted plants or have raised beds for easy, bendless gardening.

Of course if you’re looking for one of the easiest and quickest ways to spruce up your garden you should consider getting plants that are already potted. Pick them up from your local garden centre, place in your garden, job done!

When you’re ready to update your garden, give us a call or send us a message, We’ll be glad to help.

Small Contemporary Urban Garden

Should I add diseased plants to my compost?

That’s a great question. According to gardenorganic.org.uk, some diseased plants can be added to your compost, however, plant materials suffering from soil-borne diseases such as clubroot and white rot should not be added to a compost heap.

Anything else can be safely composted in a hot heap. Diseases that don’t need living matter to survive, such as grey mould, mildews, and wilts, may survive in a cold heap.

But heat is not the only factor that will kill diseases: the intense microbial activity in a compost heap also helps to dispose of them. Some diseases, such as tomato and potato blight need living plant tissue to survive and will not last long without it. It is fine to add foliage suffering from these diseases to your hot or cold compost heap. If in doubt, leave it out. Problem materials can be sent to your local council green waste recycling facility where the composting methods are hot enough to kill any problem organisms.

that don’t need living plants to survive – grey mould, mildews, wilts – may survive in a slow, cool heap. But heat is not the only factor that will kill diseases – the intense microbial activity will also help to dispose of them.

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Can diseased plants be put in compost

Image courtesy of gardenseason.com

What are adelgids and how do I get rid of adelgids?

Conifers are a tree that bears cones and evergreen needlelike or scalelike leaves.  If you have conifer trees you may have to worry about Adelgids, which are are aphid-like insects that suck the sap from conifers.

Adelgid infestation close up zoomed in
woolly adelgid infestation Photographed by Michael Montgomery

Adelgids can cause distortion of shoots, affecting the appearance of trees. Yellow, winged adults leave galls in late summer and lay eggs on host plants. The nymphs soon hatch and overwinter close to buds. In spring these nymphs feed on plant sap but do not cause galls, maturing into light green wingless females. These females lay eggs covered in white waxy threads. The nymphs hatching from these eggs induce the galls when they feed at the base of needles. The galls contain numerous chambers within which groups of pale orange nymphs develop.

Adelgids only lay eggs, and never give birth to live nymphs as aphids do. Adelgids are covered with dense woolly wax. A complete adelgid life cycle lasts two years.

Adelgid nymphs are known as sistentes, and the overwintering sistentes are called neosistens.

Rain can kill adelgids by dislodging eggs and sistentes from trees.

So now that you know a bit more about adelgids, let’s discuss the reason why you’re probably reading this:

How do I get rid of adelgids?

The damage adelgids cause is often minor and can usually be tolerated, however, if you wish to remove adelgids from your plants, here are a few suggestions.

Adelgids can be difficult to kill with insecticides as they’re protected by waxy secretions. In addition it’s only feasible to treat adelgids on trees that are small enough to be sprayed thoroughly. It’s quite difficult to deal with  infestations on very tall trees.

hemlock wooly adelgid-bug macro microscope

The following insecticide information is from the RHS

  • Organic sprays, such as natural pyrethrum (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Defenders Bug Killer, Ecofective Bug Killer (also contains fatty acids)), fatty acids (e.g. Solabiol Bug Free, Doff Greenfly & Blackfly Killer) or plant oils (e.g. Vitax Organic Pest & Disease Control, Origins Bug Control) can give some control of adelgids. These pesticides have a very short persistence and so may require reapplication to keep adelgid numbers in check
  • More persistent insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Pest Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Pest Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer)
  • The systemic neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) can also be used

The College of Agriculture, Food and Environment offers some clever ideas for controlling and eliminating adelgids including:

Spraying foliage with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil at the proper times during the HWA life cycle.

Using a systemic insecticide that moves with the tree sap and is consumed by the adelgids as they feed. 

There are three main methods for introducing insecticides including trunk injection. soil injection and soil drenching.

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