Winter gardening tips: from our garden to yours
Gardening and growing spaces are still places of creativity, nature and new growth during the winter months.
There are plenty of jobs to get stuck into, whether that's looking after wildlife, harvesting vegetables, pruning rose bushes or planning ahead for warmer days.
Our gardeners are sharing their top tips and a winter flower spotter's guide to help you enjoy nature through the season.
During the winter months, many plants are dormant, meaning there's less weeding and watering to do. If you're still looking for jobs to do then there are normally always fences to repair, wildlife shelters to build and compost bins to maintain. Or if the weather is really bad outside you can stay indoors and plant some microgreens and start planning your garden for spring.
Winter gardening jobs
Prune your roses
Most types of roses should be pruned in January or February before the leaves emerge. Cut back the plant to about half to create an even, rounded shape, and remove any dead, damaged or diseased stems.
Planting and pruning trees
Bare-rooted trees can be planted between November and March but make sure the soil is not frozen. You can also prune fruit trees. Remove dead or rubbing branches and open the crown to allow for easier harvesting.
Leave some herbaceous perennials to create a winter habitat for the wildlife in your garden. This will make the winter months easier for insects such as ladybirds.
Look after wildlife
Leave out birdfeeders and water baths or break the ice on ponds so our feathered friends can get a drink. A healthy garden ecosystem also needs insects so why not make a bug hotel?
Protect outside taps
Drain outside taps and isolate them if you can. This will prevent burst pipes and a damaged tap in frosty weather. If you can’t isolate your garden tap then insulate exposed pipes and fit a tap cover.
Cover woodland plants
Cover tender and newly-planted woodland plants with fleece or enviromesh. Or you could create a wigwam out of canes and hessian. Keeping the roots dry greatly increases the plant's chances of survival.
Spotting winter flowers
Perhaps the best known of the winter flowers, snowdrops are thought to have been introduced to British gardens in the late 15th century from mainland Europe. They flower between January and March.
Despite being native to the Mediterranean region, cyclamen thrive in the British Isles as garden plants. Growers have selectively bred the wild species to produce a range of colourful and shapely varieties.
Crocuses are one of the most popular sights during winter and can be planted in containers or in small groups in garden borders. For the full wild effect, they are best planted in drifts in lawns or under trees.
The brilliant yellow, buttercup-like flowers of Eranthis hyemalis sit within a perfect rosette of green sepals. Like many winter flowering plants, the leaves appear later.
Glory of the snow (Chionodoxa)
The clue is in the name. This small group of plants is related to asparagus and their flowers have a wonderful blue tone, especially when set against a snowy background.
Despite the common name of winter rose, hellebores are members of the buttercup family. They flower all the way through winter from late November onwards and their colours range from pure white to dark purple.
Preparing for spring
As days get longer and soil temperatures begin to rise, it’s time to prepare for the growing season ahead. If you’re starting out with a new garden or allotment, time spent planning and designing will pay dividends later when it comes to laying out and planting. Start by planning paths and physical features, then trees, shrubs and plants.
Remember to allow space for composting, water collection, storage and wildlife havens. Once you’ve decided on the layout, it’s time to think about plants. It’s important to think about both spatial and seasonal planning. For example, a vegetable plot needs to spread the workload and give a continuous supply of produce whereas an ornamental garden should provide interest throughout the seasons.
There are lots of books and information sources online to help you draw up a list of plants that meet your garden's conditions and design requirements. These guides also help source the chosen species and cultivars. It’s useful to produce a simple diary so that plants can be ordered and sown in good time. This planned approach is better than impulsive window shopping for whatever is looking good at the time at garden centres, particularly for plants that flower later in the year. Remember also to buy peat-free plants and growing soil to protect precious peatland landscapes.
For established gardens, it’s often best to propagate plants from existing ones. If you didn’t get around to lifting and dividing perennials in the autumn, late winter is also a suitable time to do this. It’s an effective and cost-free way to help fill your borders with plants. By swapping cuttings with your neighbours, you can also bring in new varieties and connect with fellow gardeners.
Birds are also getting restless in anticipation of spring, and many species start looking for nesting sites from March onwards. Now’s the time to put out new boxes for both solitary and communal nesters such as house sparrows.