Monday, 28 December 2009

Gardening through the winter season.

Starting the working day in this season certainly brings it's own challenges, starting before you even leave the house; it's a time of year where one really has to plan ahead and be prepared as much as possible. First stop is always that preliminary glance out the window, how's the weather looking and most importantly what does it look like it's going to be? Gardening down near the sea in Wales brings it's own issues, significantly how changeable the weather can be, rain now can all to easily be bright blue sky and sun in half an hour or remain rain for the rest of the day.

So lets talk kit to begin with. Getting the right clothing combination at the start is vital, waterproofs prove their weight in gold at this time of year even when it's not raining; a good pair of waterproof trousers will not only cut out the wind chill factor but also mean you can kneel down without the worry of getting damp knees.
Next on my list is my well used but still reliable fleece, this has been dipped in waterproofing and is light enough to slip off when you really get stuck into tough jobs that heat you up and tough enough to keep you warm and all but the heaviest downpour at bay.
Now onto extremities, hat and gloves go without saying and I'd suggest maybe a couple of pairs of differing warmth. Gloves can be tricky issue as I've found I simply cannot work with full finger gloves so have two pairs of fingerless which I carry with me one thick, one thin and then my secret addition a set of disposable latex gloves. Nothing gets the cold into your system as much as cold wet hands, if you can create a barrier between you and the dampness no matter how thin then the day becomes infinitely more workable. It's a wonderful feeling being able to strip them off at the end of the day and have dry hands that will warm up in no time.
As for hats, I'm currently the proud owner of four different gardening hats ranging from a thin light cotton one to a large thick knitted one that covers head, ears and back of neck, you can never have enough hats to choose from I think.
Finally a good pair of thick waterproof comfortable boots will allow you to step into almost anything with piece of mind and happy feet.

With this or a similar reliable set up it's possible to be almost unaware of what the elements are doing whilst you potter away: however, as is life, it's never quite that simple, obviously the weather doesn't just effect you but also the garden around you.
A heavy frost can wipe most jobs off you list for the day, unable to get the fork into the ground or walk on the lawn what else is there left to do? It's useful to put off jobs through the year that can be done any time for just such a moment, clearing out and decluttering might seem a bit dull and dirty but will make life much easier for the rest of the year.
Checking all your tools, cleaning, oiling and if needed repairing (cleaning and oiling should be done after each use but this will allow you a chance to really do a good job which at the end of a normal day you might not be quite as thorough with).
Reordering and cleaning out your pot store and any sheds is a real feelgood job though make sure you've got a good hat for this as you'll be coming across a lot of dust, cobwebs and spiders. Make sure your pots are clean and ready to use, get out all the old soil and give them a proper wash, this might sound a little excessive but is worth it for reducing transfer of plant diseases.
Next to the sheds themselves, any repairs that need doing? Fixing any rot, leaking roofs, drafty doors and windows and if dry enough a re-coating of wood stain wouldn't go amiss either.
For a final job that's a proper winter warmer get stuck into that compost heap! Really work it and give it a thorough turning, ideally if you've a spare bay you can turn one heap into the space of another (personally recommend three bays, one for using, one that's composting down and the other already composted down and is ready for the garden). Any compost that's ready you can either spread onto the garden as an insulating mulch or if too frosty bag up for later use, by mulching the garden you'll not only be giving warmth and nutrients to a tired end of year soil but also giving a food source for the garden birds. This will soon get you stripping off the layers and huffing and puffing with warmth and happy exertion (honest).

And that's my winters gardening jobs, there's always the usual odd jobs too, clearing any late fallen leaves or wind blown branches, hoeing off any weeds brave enough to give an appearance, if all this fails there's always the hard job of sitting inside with a cuppa perusing seed catalogues but who'd want to do that eh?

One final thought, whilst pottering away this season, clomping round in your thick warm boots, keep an eye out for bulb tips beginning to appear, it's worth sticking a bamboo cane into the ground near any you do see to make it easier to avoid next time too (just don't forget to stick something on the top of the cane and you'll keep your eyes happy for another year of gardening!).