With the winter months upon us, it won’t be long until temperatures fall and the ground starts to freeze.
Throughout this period, the plants and wildlife in your garden can sometimes be under threat. Cold weather can be dangerous to everything from trees and bushes to birds, insects, and even small mammals, turning your patch of paradise in the summer into a barren wasteland until spring.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of maintenance you can do now to help plants and wildlife through the chilly months. So, continue reading for a few simple tips to help you manage your garden this winter.
Prune summer-flowering bushes and fruit trees
While winter might be a danger to certain kinds of wildlife, it can also be a perfect opportunity to prune summer-flowering bushes and fruit trees, as the lack of leaves makes it far easier to see what needs doing.
So, take the opportunity to deadhead plants with their best days behind them and cut back shrubs and trees so they’re well set for growth again in spring.
This might include plants such as roses, clematis, and fruit trees.
Plant bulbs for some much-needed colour next year
Winter gardens can be beautiful, with the wonderful light touch of frost covering the leaves of your evergreens. However, it can also become a bit boring to suddenly lose all that colour.
Luckily, you don’t need to put up with this look forever, especially if you plant bulbs now. By doing so, you can enjoy some colour come spring, when those shoots will push themselves through.
Anything from irises to daffodils and tulips can be great options. Simply mix up your bulbs, make sure they’re deep enough in the ground, and then leave them to it.
Protect plants from the cold
Many of your flowers and bushes will survive just fine by themselves in winter, but there are also plants that just can’t hack the cold. If you’re caring for any of these less hardy bunch, you may want to give them a helping hand.
Tropical plants, fruits and vegetables, and soft-wooded and potted plants can all struggle with the frost.
So, consider using cloches to offer a bit of protection from the elements. Meanwhile, you could wrap them in bubble wrap or fleece to help them keep some of the heat in.
For particularly tender plants, you could put them in a greenhouse if you have one, or simply bring them indoors.
If you do decide to bring them indoors, you obviously need to make sure that they’re still watered regularly and have access to as much winter sunlight as possible.
Cover vegetable beds that you’re not growing in over the winter
If you’re planning on growing vegetables next year, prepare early now by covering exposed vegetable beds.
You can do this using something such as landscaping fabric, or cardboard can work just as well. Remember to weigh it down with planks, stones, or bricks to keep it covered and ensure it doesn’t blow away.
There are many benefits that come with doing this, but some key ones are:
1. It will prevent weeds from growing while the beds are empty
2. The soil will be warmer when spring comes, allowing you to start cultivating sooner
3. Nutrients will be less likely to be washed away by rain or blown away by wind.
There’s arguably nothing better than seeing vegetables grown by your own hand on your plate. Give yourself the best chance of doing so next year by preparing now.
Make your garden a paradise for wild animals
Many wild animals will thrive in the colder months, but it can also be a difficult time for others. Birds can struggle to forage for food and water, as can insects and small mammals.
You can make your garden a paradise for such wildlife by putting out bird feeders and remembering to thaw bird baths on particularly cold mornings.
For insects, you could have a “bug hotel”, either buying one from a garden centre or creating your own from wood in your garden. These structures can provide a vital space for insects to live and hibernate during winter.
Meanwhile, for little mammals like hedgehogs, leave fresh water in dishes for them to drink from. You can even leave out cat food for them to encourage them to come through.
Hedgehogs also like untidy corners with logs and fallen leaves for hibernating, so consider leaving them an area to sleep off the colder months if you have the space.
Try to stay off the grass
A simple but effective way to keep your garden looking fresh and vibrant in winter is to stay off the grass.
Grass is an incredibly resilient plant, and tends to recover quickly once it has access to adequate light and water. But stepping on it during the winter can do enormous damage to your lawn, making it look untidy and rather threadbare.
So, try to keep off any grass you have as far as possible so you can enjoy the aesthetic that a manicured lawn can offer.
Remember to isolate or insulate outside taps
Outside taps are extraordinarily helpful, but can also be a headache in winter if they freeze. That’s why you should take the opportunity now to isolate them entirely so that no water is left inside to freeze and cause cracks.
At the very least, properly insulate any exposed pipework. You can buy tap covers from shops such as Screwfix and Wickes to protect the spout, too.