Midwinter is mainly a time for indoor gardening jobs including ordering seeds and plants for the upcoming spring, writing labels and designing improvements for the year ahead. These are not unimportant gardening tasks, and by attending to them in good time you are more likely to make the right decision and have everything ready for late winter and early spring when gardening begins in earnest.
In small pots sow seeds for summer flowers – spread them thinly and as evenly as possible. Take chrysanthemum cuttings from a clump of roots that has been overwintered in a greenhouse or cold frame. Choose shoots coming directly from the base of the plant. Space the chrysanthemum cuttings evenly around the edge of a pot containing a potting mixture that is suitable for cuttings.
The flower garden tasks:
– Keep an area of water open in an iced-over pond if there is a prolonged freeze. If you don’t have a pond heater, try standing a pan of boiling water on the ice until it melts through;
– Knock heavy snow off hedges and conifers if the branches start to bend under the weight. If you leave it, the shape may be spoilt;
– Insulate the cold frame for extra protection against the coldest weather;
– Create new paths, making sure that they are not under deciduous trees where leaves will fall, creating a slippery surface;
– Create new ponds. Aim for a minimum surface area of 12 sq m (130 sq ft). The more it fills with rain over winter the better, because tap water contains chemicals that lead to the growth of algae in hot summer weather;
– Use lengths of hosepipe to map out new flower beds, and check that you are happy with the shape. Also make sure that the paths between new beds are wide enough for a wheelbarrow and lawnmower;
– Avoid walking on wet grass on heavy clay because you will create bumps and dips.
In your greenhouse/conservatory check all plants and pick off any dead or dying leaves (do it once a week). Continue ventilating, especially on mild days, but even on cold days for at least 30 minutes. This particularly applies where paraffin heaters are being used because they release small quantities of noxious fumes. Water pot plants, but note that being dormant they only need the occasional drink when dry.
Paint plant pots for next spring, jazzing them up with smart blue and white stripes, hothouse reds or low-key pale greys. Clean the greenhouse thoroughly to reduce the build-up of pests and diseases.