Transitioning from autumn to winter can make it feel like your garden's glory days are over for another year. But it doesn't have to be that way, and there's lots you can do to keep your garden productive through the cold months to come.
Home grown food - Fruits
- Check any fruit trees for signs of canker. Cut off small infected shoots. For larger branches, it will be necessary to brush away the dead, loose cankered tissue. Tidy up the cut area with a sharp knife and then paint the wound with Arbrex Seal and Heal.
- Unfortunately, canker is more common in high rainfall areas. Now is an excellent time to plant varieties of apples that have good canker resistance such as ‘Sunset’, ‘Fiesta’ and ‘Bramley’.
Apple 'Sunset' has good canker resistance
- Attach sticky Glue Band Traps to the trunks of fruit trees to trap the winter moth on its way up the trunk to lay its eggs. Do the stake too!
- Apply Winter Wash to fruit trees and bushes to control any insect pests that are overwintering in cracks and crevices. Cover any actively growing plants below as this spray may harm them.
- Remove any fruit that has brown rot. Burn or bin it. Infected fruit often hangs on the trees as mummified clusters, ready to infect next year's crop!
- Pinch immature figs off outdoor plants. These are best taken off now as if left they will rot. Anything smaller than a pea can be left to grow and should survive the winter to ripen next summer. Where the fig is growing in a pot protect the tender roots from frost by wrapping the pot.
Largest fig fruits should be removed now
- Regularly check stored fruit. Eat any that are ripe and check for any that are rotting to remove them promptly. Watch out for mice too!
- Plant fruit canes now and throughout winter. Raspberries, loganberries, tayberries and other hybrid cane fruits are easy enough to grow if you have the space for them.
- Plant fruit bushes now and throughout winter. Gooseberries, black currants, red currants and blueberries are easy to grow. Many varieties of containerised and pot grown stock are available at this time of year.
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Home grown food - Vegetables
- Complete autumn digging of the veg patch but leave the ground rough to let the frost and rain break it up. If you're tempted to grow without digging, check out Charles Dowding's articles at the bottom of this page.
Rough dug soil ready for frost
- Add Vitax Clay Breaker to improve heavy clay soil. This improves the soil structure and makes it easier to work with.
- Add plenty of organic matter (garden compost, spent mushroom compost or farmyard manure) to both heavy and light sandy soil. Avoid putting this on areas where you plan to grow root crops as it will cause distorted roots.
Dig in garden compost now
- Sow winter mix-leaf salads. Choose somewhere sheltered and warm if possible.
@AlanGardenMaster picking winter salad leaves
- Sow winter-hardy varieties of broad beans. ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ is the most popular variety, but it’s worth trying ‘De Monica’ or ‘Luz de Otono’ as these have done well for me. If your garden is windy then ‘The Sutton’ is a heavy yielding shorter variety.
Broad bean 'Luz de Otono'
- Plan next season by ordering the seeds that you’ll need. Try at least one thing that you’ve never grown before!
- Check the soil pH on your veg patch. Add lime to raise the pH level to close to neutral [pH 6.5] if required. If you are using a crop rotation, then the lime should be going on the area where you plan to grow members of the Brassica family [sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, swede, etc.] A higher pH helps to prevent clubroot disease.
- Make sure that crops are well protected from pigeon damage. Brassica crops are especially at risk during cold spells. Netting the plants is the best solution.
Bird netting over cabbages
- Veg crops that might be damaged by cold in winter could benefit from covering with horticultural fleece. Every now and then, lift and check what’s going on underneath, as slugs can still be active and weeds relishing that extra protection could takeover if not pulled out!
Floating mulch or fleece protecting vegetables
Home grown food - Herbs
- Most herbs become dormant in winter, but a few can be encouraged to still provide flavour to your meals!
- You can force mint into new growth if you pot up a few roots and keep the pot in a warm and light position. No reason to stop having fresh mint tea just because it's winter! I force apple and garden mint, but I don't see why other flavoured mints can't be forced too.
Splitting a potted mint plant with two back to back forks
- Supermarket bought basil plants soon struggle in my kitchen, but potted into fresh compost and put on the brightest windowsill I find they take on a new lease of life!
- Sow coriander, basil, mustard and cress seeds on a tray lined with kitchen paper roll. Keep it moist at all times, and you'll soon have micro-leaves for your sandwiches or to garnish with.
Basil seeds germinating on damp paper