This is a garden job that people have varied timing preference for. Some like to do it as soon as the plants die down in autumn, cutting back and clearing everything away for winter. Others like to wait until after winter so they can enjoy frost on the seeds heads and give the plants crowns a bit more protections with leaf debris against the cold. I fall into the later camp, letting the garden sleep under the blanket of debris, letting seeds fall to hopefully germinate in spring and to enjoy the silhouettes of seed heads in frost. I do like a day in the garden, a day making a difference, clearing away the old leaves of last year and uncovering the treasures of this year emerging already The Hellebores have been getting ahead of themselves under the old leaves.
|Lovely to see some blue sky|
I always enjoy this job as I find it immensely satisfying to turn weedy, messy borders in to neat tidy borders, refreshed and ready for spring flower beds. Then you can easily see the plants emerging after their winter sleep and bulbs beginning to flower. Again as with timing everyone has their own way of doing this task, mine is by no means the only way, but the way I like to work.
~ Cutting back plants and lifting leaves
Firstly I cut back all the dead stems, leaves etc from the plants and lift weeds, gathering it all up into my big recycled tyre bucket and ultimately into the compost bin. Most of the plant material goes in the compost heap unless it is very woody, then it goes on the bonfire. I also use tidying up as an opportunity to check on which plants are struggling or maybe not survived. Then I can make a decision whether to replace them or plant something new.
|Cut back the previous year's growth close to the gorund, this is|
Rudbeckia lanceolate which keeps a mound of leaves all year round
~ Re-edging lawns or fixing border edgesIt's all good exercise after hibernating over winter! Once all the debris is cleared off the border I can if any lawns need re-edged, which I do with a half-moon edging knife and shears. If larger areas need fixed, I cut out a square of turf larger than the whole and turn it 180 degrees so the border has a smooth new edge and the hole can be filled in with some soil and re-seeded. If the beds have a wooden edge, etc, it's a good opportunity to do some maintenance before plants start growing again. This can be replacing wooden edges, hammering in loose pegs, etc.
~ Forking / digging / no dig
Here again there are many preferences, some people fork over the soil, loosening up compacted areas, if it's it a large area (veg beds) it can be dug over and then there is the no dig approach to gardening. This is something I have recently been considering. Because when you think about the borders in the nursery which have a bark mulch don't get dug or forked at all and the plants grow very well......... Any beds that don't get bark get a home made compost mulch, so the soil doesn't need forked to make it look good. Food for thought there moving forward.
After all the clearing, forking, and tidying it's time to prepare the borders and beds for new growth. Again we all have our favourite general fertiliser that we use. For many years I have used pelleted organic chicken manure and I find plants do very well with it, it's organic and completely natural. It gets scattered over the borders, this is useful not only to boost the plants but also if the soil is poor to enrich it.
~ Compost mulch
Finally I cover the border in home made compost from our compost heaps. This mulch seals in moisture, feeds the plants and nourishes and improves poorer soils. Over the year worms and me hoeing the beds will work the compost in and over time the soil does improve. I did this for the fifteen years I was at my last garden and by the time I left the very poor clay soil in the borders was becoming a lovely workable soil.
|The herb garden in the nursery with it's compost mulch|
~ Enjoy the fruits of your winter labours
Lastly, stand back and enjoy the really satisfyingly feeling of those tidy borders, beds and garden, ready to jump into life, even if you feel sore and tired! Have a coffee or a hot chocolate and stand at the window in the warmth and watch the bulbs emerging and the first signs of growth, that's what I do, as I plan what I'll put in any spaces I've found.
#gardentidyup #springclean #mulching #feedingthegarden
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I'm climbing Ben Nevis in June 2019 to raise money for Macmilla Cancer Support
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