Give your garden a winter tidy up
Rake and weed gravel areas and drives
Ilex 'Golden King'
Many people have an extended break from work at Christmas, often right through until after New Year. As a signed up member of the 'can't be stuck to the sofa too long club' I am hoping to encourage you to get up and out and do a bit of gardening while you're off. You can make good use of this time and get a little bit of post Christmas excess exercise as well ,by giving your garden its winter tidy up. And come spring when the days are getting longer you will thank me for guilting you into getting it done now rather than putting it on the very long finger.
The weather in Ireland is becoming milder in the winter in general I think. Our winters are getting later and shorter and our springs are getting earlier and longer. This poses a few problems when it comes to the timing of winter garden works. Take roses for an example. Tradition would have it that they are half pruned back sometime in early November to stop them rocking in the autumn gales.
This year some roses were still quite colourful at that time and to prune off the flowers was more than I had the stomach for so I delayed this halfway pruning. Luckily this autumn and early winter wasn't particularly windy either so no harm done. I will now prune the roses that had late blooms back by half because I have a feeling that we are due some pretty inclement conditions in the near future. Shrub roses don't necessarily need this pruning but winter pruning is particularly beneficial for hybrid teas, florabunda and English roses that are vunerable to wind rock. Groundcover roses I would leave until early spring. There is no specific technic for pruning roses at this time just cut back by half and wait until spring to complete the task. Heel in around the roses as you go in case they have loosen already.
Plants like daylillies [Hemerocallis], Crocosmia [monbretia] and other herbaceous plants can also present a bit of a conundrum when winter tidying. When the old dead foliage is cleared away you may find that new shoots are already appearing from the sombre soil. These new shoots are vunerable to frost damage and leaving the dead foliage would provide some protection for them. Leaving the old foliage will however be a great slug haven and harbour other diseases and fungal spores. Best to cut back and mulch over the new shoots with manure, compost or even peat. Any evergreen herbaceous plants can have their damaged leaves and foliage tidied now as can old unattractive flower heads.
All trees except for the Prunus species [ cherries etc] can be pruned now and that includes fruit like apples and pears as well as ornamentals. Shrubs that flower between now and mid June will be flowering on last years wood so unless you want to lose all your flowers don't prune until after they have flowered. This includes the likes of Forsythia, Ribes, Kerria and Chaenomeles but pruning now will also effect later flowerers like Weigelia and Philadelphus. Many shrubs that flower from July onwards do so on new growth so these can be pruned now. This includes Fuchsia, Lavatera and Potentillas.
The remnants of the autumn leaf fall should be cleared up, and if this for you means all of them then get it done as soon as possible particularly on grass areas. Add them to your compost heap. Be sure to clear your gutters and drains of autumn debris, something I'm sure you were saving as a Christmas treat for yourself, a stitch in time will save you nine.
Many herbaceous plants will set seed so be aware of this if you are cleaning plant borders of weeds and weed seedlings. If you can identify any plant seedlings consider potting them up and growing them on. As you work your way through your borders edge any grass that might be encroaching into the beds. Light digging with a garden fork can be carried out, just loosen the top couple of inches, if the weather permits and vegetable gardens can also be dug if dry enough.
So much to do and we haven't even started the New Year.