Start sowing now! Some Winter Gardening Tips!

The road to hell is paved with good intention...

The first three weeks of the January are often perceived as being the low point of the year. More people die in January than at any other point of the year. Also, it is traditionally the best time of year to quit your newly started health/exercise regime. But don't worry! January typically symbolizes new beginnings and adventures too! Coincidentally and fortuitously, it is also a great time to beginning work on the garden.

Typically, it is not advisable to plant/sow anything when the ground is frozen. Apart from the physical impracticality, extreme temperatures may damage seeds and bulbs. However, there are still plenty of things to get on with in the garden at this time of year, so you are ready for the upcoming growing season. Here are a few suggestions:

Tool and infrastructure maintenance. It is important to keep all your gardening equipment in good condition. Doing this during the off season means your tools will be ready to go when the season starts. A little lawn mower maintenance is also advisable. 

Rodent and pest control - Now is a good time to lay rodent traps in proximity to your fruit and vegetable patches. This will reduce the rodent population early on and will give your fruit and vegetables a better chance of survival. It is also a good time to tackle slug populations. 

Mould control - Grey Mould can be an issue at this time time of year. It can be readily controlled with chemical or physical mechanisms. As with many moulds, moisture can be an issue. Greenhouses and any form of covering can promote the growth of Grey Mould by reducing the circulation of air. This lack of air circulation can lead to an increase in moisture levels which in turn, can promote the growth of mould. To reduce chances of mould, ensure there is sufficient air circulation. Remove any dead vegetation from under covers and glass! Brassica downy mildew also loves moisture and non-circulating air.

Cleaning and tidying up old plant matter - This also helps reduce excess moisture content, manage insect populations and improve air circulation. 

Composting - Do not try and compost diseased plant matter. This should be burned or disposed of in a sanitary manner, well away from your growing area. Attempting to compost infected plants will simply increases the spread of spores (e.g. Grey Mould). Any plant matter you want to compost needs to be healthy and in its raw state.

Crop rotation - Prevents rotting and nutrient deficiency in the soil. Growing the same plants in the same area of soil will use up the same nutrients, year on year. Hence the necessity of crop rotation. Growing a crop of nitrogen fixing plants is also advisable, every few years, even if you do use fertilizers. 

Ash spreading - Particularly good for fruit trees and roses. This can help control soil PH and is rich in potassium so encourages good flowering in spring and hence good fruiting in autumn. A good natural fertilizer.

Some things to sow now - Onions, Beans, Strawberries, Leeks, Aubergine, Cauliflower, Wheatgrass, Cabbage. Always plenty to be done. Depending on temperature, this may require a greenhouse/indoor area. 

Look after birds - Clean and and maybe even gently warm bird baths. Use some lukewarm water or at least make sure the water is free of ice. A mid winter bath will do the birds a world of good. Particularly if the water is slightly warm. Supply some fat balls and bird feed for a welcome Winter reprieve. Remember, birds are a great method of natural insect control and seed propagation. Give them a hand!

Water buts - Clean out water buts, ensuring you scrub each one thoroughly. This will help control mould and disease. A pressure washer will make this job inordinately easier, if messy.

This all goes to show that a gardener's work is never done. 

Good luck in your gardening endeavours!

The Bushgear Team 

Photo:By KVDP (talk) - Own work (Original text: self-made), Public Domain,