• Identify specific areas of your garden dedicated to wildlife – not as difficult as you might think. Leave perennial flower heads on the plant as long a possible to be a food source for seed-eating garden birds. Don’t be too tidy under hedges and at the back of shrub borders. Think about planting shrubs, perennials and bedding plants that are good for pollinating insects – have a look on the RHS website ww.rhs.org.uk for lists of plants that will encourage bees and hoverflies and many other valuable wildlife species.
• Plan for your vegetables now and order seed – avoid F1 Hybrids as they are very expensive, you get fewer seeds in the packet and all the plants produce crops at the same time; OK if you have a large hungry family!
• Have a look around the garden now and count how many winter and early fragrant spring flowering plants you have. Now is the time to buy and plant these super plants. I have Lonicera fragrantissima (Winter
Honeysuckle), Hamamellis pallida (Witch Hazel) and Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Posthill' in flower, all hardy plants that will give me much pleasure for weeks to come.
• Prune apples and pears and remember to prune again to shorten back the annual shoots in late July to help form fruit buds. Prune Wisteria now, and again in the late summer to remove those long straggly annual shoots and get more flower.
• Join the Tatsfield Horticultural Society, come to our Shows and the Gardening Club – we also have vacancies on the Committee just waiting for you!
The mild dry start to the winter was spoilt by the rain in the week before Christmas. This means that we may have lost the chance to dig over our vegetable plots and leave the clay in lumps ready for the frost, if we have any this winter! Be patient with our heavy soil; it will dry and be ready for digging – eventually!
I was asked recently why gardening books say that Roses should not be pruned until February/March. Well, pruning them at that time of the year ensures the minimum of time to have raw cut stems before the plant starts to grow. In fact you can prune roses any time during the winter BUT you may get some die back, and you might stimulate a bit too much early growth if the winter is mild and then the new shoots get ‘burnt’ by the late frosts. This will not kill the plant; it just delays growth for a short time while the plant recovers.