TOP TIPS TO PREPARE YOUR GARDEN
As a New Year dawns, and the daylight hours become longer, you can start to plan your garden. Even in January, your garden will be developing, so here are some general tips to help you prepare and enjoy it throughout the year:
Recycle your used Christmas tree by shredding it for mulch.
Start to clean out your greenhouse and any pots/planters that need a spruce.
Check the insulation of your greenhouse, as well as the guttering to ensure they are clear of leaves.
On dry days, it’s an idea to treat your wooden structure, such as furniture, arbours etc. as well as repair any damaged structures.
Power washing your paths can remove any unwanted algae that becomes slippery in the wet.
Install lighting in and around the garden and outhouses, which will allow you to work as the sun sets.
If the weather is mild enough, you can start to repair your lawn or even begin to lay a new one.
If your lawn is still water logged from the winter, use a garden fork to spike into the turf and fill in the holes with sharp sand and loam, brushing in using a stiff brush.
January and February are the mating season for moles, as well as the key time for them building nests, so you may get a number of molehills. Remove the hills and re-frim the soil, ready to re-seed in spring.
If you have a pond, frost can crack the liners so keep an eye on the water levels, if it drops dramatically it could be a leak.
If your pond freezes over, do not break the ice as this can harm any fish you may have. Use a pan of hot water, held on the surface of the ice, until the area melts and try to keep it open.
Security lighting and path markers are a good addition to help you around on darker evenings. Solar lights are now quite often charged by daylight rather than direct sunlight, so try using solar kits.
It may be that some of the suggestions from January need to be done into February, as the weather can cause delays, so read through and action as appropriate.
Now is a good time to plan any new projects, as you have a blank canvas to work on before the perennials and new shrubs start to grow.
Your plans may involve a new pond and the spring rain will help to fill it. It is recommended to have sloping contours between deep and shallow ends of the pond and between the bank and the water which are more wildlife friendly.
If you are starting to grow in a greenhouse, ensure the right temperature for the relevant plants being grown. Check the insulation, and on sunny days, allow some ventilation to reduce the risk of algae.
Adding bird feeders can help care for the wildlife.
Continue to manage your garden structures, repairing and treated as required.
Clear any remaining paths of algae.
New turf can still be laid but be sure to work from planks to avoid compacting the soil. Do not walk on newly laid turf and leave it undisturbed for several weeks to allow the lawn to bed in.
Later in the month, if the weather is mild enough, you can give the grass its first cut, but remember to make the first cut is light, raising the mower blades about 0.25 inch higher than your normal cut.
If you are growing lawn from seed, prepare the ground by cultivating, levelling and then firming the soil, allowing the soil to settle in preparation for sowing later in the month or into April.
Straighten lawn edges using a half moon spade, again remembering to use a board as you go around, so avoiding damage to the grass.
If you have fish, start to feed them. Little and often is best to prevent excess food creating unwanted algal blooms.
Remove pond heaters when the temperatures rise, clean out filters, replace pumps, water features and lights as required.
The garden retail market starts to kick-in from March onwards, so look out for deals on heating, lighting, BBQs, furniture etc.
If you haven’t already started, now is the time to clear out the shed or outhouse, disposing of any old or out of date chemicals. Make sure you do so in an appropriate way, and contact your local tip if unsure.
Prepare for some new garden furniture by clearing and cleaning your existing paving or decked area. If you are building new decking, so be sure to make your structure strong, safe and secure.
Mow the lawn as required, keep the borders tidy and repair any bumps or holes in your grass.
This is the best month to fertilise your lawn, so use a high nitrogen spring lawn fertiliser. If moss is also a problem, use a combination of fertiliser and moss killer. Make sure you read all instructions careful, as the wrong chemical could ruin your lawn.
Mid-April to early May is the best time for sowing new lawns or over-seeding dead patches, but wait until the weather is better to avoid very wet ground.
If you are throwing your grass cuttings on a compost, make sure you do so in thin layers as too much grass at once will be wet, and won’t allow the compost to aerate, resulting in a bad smell and slime.
Keep your weeds under control and protect any fruit blossom from late frost.
Now is the time to tie up any climbing or rambling plants, and to sow the hardy annuals, herbs and wild flower seeds.
Continue to treat your garden structures, clean your pathways and remove dirt and algae from your guttering.
Carry on mowing the lawn as required, and in hotter weather, make sure your lawn is kept watered (assuming no hosepipe ban).
In and around your pond, you should plant bog plants which enjoy a damp spot. Once the plants have taken, start to introduce new fish, avoiding goldfish if you have a wildlife pond, as they eat frogspawn.
Your hedges might be ready for a trim, so be sure to check for nesting birds before cutting.
As bulbs fade and herbaceous borders grow, it’s time to sow and plant out bedding.
June sees the longest day of the year, and all the extra warmth and light will help your garden blossom and bloom and look amazing. However, it is also a time for weeds to appear so ensure you keep on top of them with regular hoeing.
If you have garden furniture and/or décor on your lawn, so be sure to move it to allow the grass underneath to rejuvenate, otherwise you could be left with stained grass.
Any new lawns should be kept watered so stop them from drying out and not taking.
During longer spells of dry weather, keep your lawn a little longer to avoid it from drying out. Invest in a mulching mower which spread the grass clippings very finely and get blown into the lower levels of the turf, so retaining moisture.
Continue to hoe your borders to keep the weeds down.
Harvest your salad crops and any early potatoes.
Keep your greenhouse shaded to keep them cool and avoid scorching.
Make the most of the (hopefully) dry weather to re-paint or varnish your garden structures.
Now is the time to plant your autumn flowering bulbs – check the packaging to get more details.
Cutting back basket plants and then feeding can help to regenerate them, as well as dead-heading flowers.
Keep an eye out for green and black flies on your stems and leaves of young shoots.
This is the last time you need to feed your lawn with a liquid fertilizer. Maybe use a feed and weed solution to kill off any unwanted weeds in your grass.
Water your lawn if possible, especially newly laid or sewn areas.
Ensure your pond has sufficient water, and if you are topping up, try to use a spray attachment as this will help to aerate the water.
As the cooler weather begins, so you should start to manage parts of your garden in preparation for autumn.
Clean your pathways and paving to remove algae that could make them slippier in winter.
Clear guttering, and ensure out-buildings are watertight before the heavier rains start.
Continue to remove blanket weed from your pond, and treat shallow water features or water washed cobbles with algicide to reduce the green slime.
Dead-head flowers continually.
If you have painted your greenhouse windows to give shade, you should look to remove it, as well as lifting any blinds, to ensure you do not deprive your plants of light.
In preparation for bringing your tender plants in for winter, give your greenhouse a clean, making sure you get into all the corners and crevices to get rid of unwanted pests.
Install a water-butt to collect the rain water through the autumn and winter, so you have plenty for next year.
If you are storing your furniture away, make sure it is clean, and if possible, put a cover over it. Many items of furniture are left out over the winter, so the cover will help protect from the elements. Do not leave cushions out over the winter.
Continue dead-heading hanging baskets and plants to help prolong their bloom.
If you have perennials that are dying off, cut them back.
Clear dead leaves as soon as possible, as they can spread disease in your garden. They can and should be added to your compost, and mulching will help them breakdown.
Collect tree and shrub seeds for sowing in the spring.
Mow your lawn less frequently in the autumn and raise the height of the cut to give a more protective layer and leave it more resistant to the winter weather.
You can add an autumn lawn feed which is high in potassium to help harden your lawn. Scarify and aerate first, then add the potassium and then add a top dressing.
Cover your pond with netting to prevent falling leaves from covering the surface.
As the foliage around the pond dies off, remove any fallen parts.
Try to water or damp down in your greenhouse earlier in the day, as dampness during cold nights can be a recipe for mould.
In preparation for the cold nights, drain any standpipes and irrigation lines.
Rill up and store plastic hose pipes.
Jet-wash your emptied water-butts or clean with a scrubbing brush, so they are ready for the extra water.
Any outstanding repairs should be done this month on your greenhouse before it fills with tender plants.
Turn the compost heap to help speed up its composition.
Lift up any patio pots/planters on to bricks or feet to avoid them sitting in water.
If you have herbaceous plants that have been supported, remove the stakes to allow the plants to die back.
Depending on your location, this could be the last chance to scarify, aerate and top dress your lawns. Use a spring-tine rake or scarifier then add an autumn feed, low in nitrogen that will harden the lawn for winter.
Weedkillers aren’t much use at this time of year, a final cut will help keep weeds down until spring when you can then start with the solutions.
When storing your garden machinery, make sure they are clean and dry to avoid mold or rust, and drain any petrol from engine motors.
Drain any standpipes and irrigation lines to avoid cracking in the freezing temperatures of winter.
Sharpen secateurs ready for winter pruning.
If you have not already done so, clean your decking or patio. A good tip is to staple some chicken wire on to the wooden decking to help prevent slipping when its wet.
Install lighting to sheds, greenhouses and outhouses so you can garden in the darker evenings. Solar lighting has come leaps and bounds, so high LUMEN output lamps are recommended.
If you have large clay or ceramic tubs outside, wrap them in bubble wrap, hessian or some suitable material to insulate them over winter.
Continue to rake leaves off the grass to avoid blockage from light and moisture.
Whilst it is now too late to sow grass seed, you can lay turf down, as long as the weather is not too cold.
Do not use summer lawns feeds as they contain too much nitrogen, use ones with higher potassium content.
Watch out for herons! Surround your pond with string, 6 inches up from the ground and 6 inches in from the water. This will deter them from approaching the water’s edge where they fish.
If permitted, use a bonfire to dispose of debris unsuitable for compost.
Last chance to ensure all relevant items are protected for winter.
Ensure your greenhouse is suitable heated.
Tree pruning can take place.
Insulate outdoor taps and prevent ponds from freezing by installing pond heaters. If you cannot install a heater, as mentioned in January, hold a pan of hot water over the ice until it melts, do not crack the ice as it can harm the fish.
Avoid walking on lawns on frosty mornings, it can damage the grass and can lead to brown footprint shaped marks.
Continue to clear fallen leaves from the lawn.
If you have not already done so, put up some insulation materials in the greenhouse, but also allow adequate ventilation, perhaps b open a vent for a couple of hours on milder days. This can help reduce the risk of fungal infections.