Perhaps I should have warned you what was coming but this is the last time I shall write “This Month in the Garden”. I have been writing the article for nearly eight years now and, as I enter my late eighties, I think it is time for a quieter life. Also, I am not spending nearly so much time working in the garden as I used to so have less to say about what I have been doing in the garden. I have enjoyed writing the articles and it has been a good discipline to try to do the things that I have encouraged you to do. Many of you have been kind enough to tell me how much you have appreciated the articles and this has made it all the harder to give up …
I shall be rounding things off by stopping at the end of the gardening year, but gardening is a never-ending process and I am very pleased to say, although I shall stop, the monthly gardening articles in The Loop will carry on. Linda Truscott will be taking over from the February issue at the start of another gardening year. Linda will be well-known to many of you as the Membership secretary of the Biddenham gardeners’ association and the writer of many of the reports of BGA meetings in The Loop. She is both a keen gardener and an expert flower arranger.
Winter is nearly upon us and that brings with it many uncertainties about the sort of weather we shall be getting. Very probably it will not be unduly cold and with very little chance of snow. You, nevertheless, need to be prepared for bitter weather. Who knows where the Beast from the East is lurking? If there is snow, it will need to be knocked off netting over fruit to stop damage to supports and from plants where branches or stems are being unduly weighed down. If there are prolonged temperatures below freezing, containers can be protected with bubble-wrap put round the pot and by being lifted with pottery feet or pebbles to improve drainage and prevent contact with frozen ground.. Tender foliage can be protected with horticultural fleece, and bulbs in containers can be covered with fleece, heavy material or weighted cardboard. If you have a frozen pond, provide wildlife or fish or some access to air by making a hole in the ice. This can be done with a rubber ball left floating on the water, and then removed, or by putting a saucepan of hot water on the ice. Both of these will need to be repeated if the hole freezes over again.
If there are still leaves on the lawn, remove them by raking or by mowing the grass with the mower set at its highest level. Raked leaves can be bagged for leaf-mould and chopped leaves from the mower put in the compost. When all leaves have fallen remove any nets over a pond.
This is the main time of the year for pruning apple and pear trees. Once the leaves have fallen, remove any dead or damaged branches or twigs and then cut back at least a third of new growth (don’t cut back the buds at the end of a tip-bearing tree like Bramley apples). Prune harder to maintain the desired height and shape. Long vertical shoots at the top of a tree can be kept as row markers for newly sown seeds in the vegetable patch or to act as supports for black thread or cotton stretched around brassicas to deter pigeons.
There will generally be plenty of tidying, clearing and cleaning to be done. Wash pots and seed trays and check tools for cleanliness and wipe with oil to prevent rust.
Check stored fruit for rot and remove damaged fruit. An idea from the RHS magazine is to store fruit on the trays of an unused fridge kept in a garage. Leave the door ajar for ventilation.
A good indoor task in bad weather or the evening is to plan and order vegetable seeds and annual or perennial flower seeds. Growing your own from seed is always much cheaper than buying plants although, of course, it also more work and you may not have a greenhouse for the space needed. It’s surprising what you can do, though in a conservatory or a window sill. Remember that on a window sill most of the light is coming from one side so you will need to turn plants round for even growth or provide a reflective backing, which can be done with kitchen foil stretched over cardboard.
Finally, it is goodbye from me and welcome to Linda.
[Apologies for the late posting of this item – RB]