It might seem an odd time of year to add to the gardening chapters, there was a scandalous dusting of snow over my poor car this morning for heavens sake who wants to be outside if they don’t have to!?!? Actually, I do, and I have spent some good hours outside recently getting dirty and upsetting the neighbours’ dogs with my incessant quiet walking around my own garden. Fine there’s not much harvesting to be had but there are many little jobs to done, bulbs to be planted and masterplans to hatch and hone in time for the end of the frosts and my inevitable return to cultivational glory!
Weeding and Cut Backs:
Truth is there are a lot of boring jobs to do now that I am hoping will help me out later in the year. Godless weeds that have been spreading since the autumn like the bastard oxalis and it’s vile side kick geraniums have been halted in the cold weather and are much easier to pull up, roots and all, while the soil is wet at the moment. I was sadly thrilled to yield the best part of a whole garden sack full of these murderous and unruly pests. It’s also proven much easier to hack back the monster buddleja at the moment vs when it is on full growth activity. Experts might tell you to do this at another time but those experts haven’t tried to preen that thing when the bees are awake, nor are they going to have to placate my neighbours if it rips their fence over. Other casualties to the winter wilt were the funny sort of pink shrub thing up the back of the garden that is as unsightly as it is ungainly and has been henceforth ripped from the ground and resigned to compost and leave space for a gooseberry plant. Much satisfaction was had when clearing out a load of rogue mint plants revealed a massive cache of snail eggs under a stepping stone which I cheerfully destroyed, only regretting that I couldn’t be sure if their parents could see me doing it. Which brings me nicely on to my next subject.
We have talked before about my constant battle with the gastropods and the need for novel and increasingly violent control measures. I only expect my obsession with snail extinction to grow with the daylight hours of 2017, spurred on by the little poke of joy in my otherwise black heart of seeing the decimated Janaury King cabbages making a rather sad comeback in the veg patch now that those slimy swines have gone away. It’s a good time of year to dig out the beer traps in the garden which are mostly full of gunky dead leaves and give them a bit of a clean and re position ready for action in the spring too.
Moby Dick The Phantom Crapper has been noticeable in his absence of late, no doubt he winters in the Canaries with several slaves in tow, however our new bird table seems to have bought in some new predators in his wake. We have Cheeky Sod, who likes to break into my conservatory and That Raggedy One who poos in the rockery and is the WORST bird stalker in the history of rubbish felines. The sonic scarer isn’t as effective at the moment, I assume because it is solar charged but a trip to the garden centre to stock up on January sale snow drops has worked wonders by filling up the bare soil areas that the scarer can’t reach and apparently prompting the bloody cats to take their toilet elsewhere.
You should feed the birds you know, because they are a big part of your ecosystem and although in towns most of them are a bit drab and common, that doesn’t stop them from coming back in the warmer months to eat the slugs if they are used to visiting your garden! They also live outside, and we have already established that it’s cold outside and a lot of the bugs have gone into hiding so there isn’t that much for them to eat. Give them a hand with some fat balls, peanuts and seeds at this time of year as high energy food will help to sustain them and also bring some wildlife activity to your garden which is probably kind of dull at the moment otherwise. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a handsome bird table as I am, you can buy cheap fat balls and seed bells to hang directly from tree branches or on the fence or even just scatter some seeds on table tops or areas of concrete pathway. If you wont shop for your garden friends chuck them out some bacon rind trimmings from the kitchen, cheese scraps and chopped apple cores seem to go down well too. As a rule we see loads of blue tits and robins early on dry days (they like the peanuts) and have more visits from blackbirds and the odd starling later in the day regardless of the weather. The depressed wood pigeon likes to just land on the table and trash everything once in a while. He’s seasonal affective, you know.
There isn’t much edible happening right now, the cabbages are fighting back but can’t really be considered a crop and I have a couple of surprise sprouts coming forth from some onions I missed earlier in the year but that’s about it from the patch. My rosemary plant is decidedly stoic and fragrant despite the weather and I have a rather lovely bay tree who has survived the frosts and has lots of lovely, dark and shiny leaves prime for plucking. Errol the lemon tree is looking very sad and has dropped all of his leaves for the first time ever but has some new and green branches so hopefully he will be back to action next month. The window sill chilli plant has another crop coming up and is likely to need a bigger pot this year.
Perhaps the best bit of all the tidying and pottering at this time of year is the planning. Despite a pretty unsuccessful time of it in 2016 lessons were learned and tips taken and I’m eager to get to grips with some conservatory propagation in about a month. Planned projects this year will be parsnips and climbing courgettes, plus getting the lettuces out early and trying to improve on September’s carrot harvest. There is much research still to be done to avoid another blight on the plums and having made some excellent pickled pears in November I’m hoping that these are bountiful again (must write this up, I know I know). I have my eye on a superfluous hazlenut tree which might have to make way for my kitchen herbs area once I work out the daylight dynamics of that corner and will soon be clearing an area of the shed to dedicate entirely to biological warfare. Fun times ahead!