Winter gardens in the making

Andrew Farrelly , head gardener at Ballintubbert, Co Laois, gives top tips for the new year garden

MANY people see winter as a time to ignore their garden, but there are plenty of things you can be doing through the winter months to ensure that you continue to enjoy the pleasures of gardening all year round and that you’re ready for the year ahead.

1 Make leaf mould: Rake and bag or stack fallen leaves then wait at least 18 months until you have black, crumbly soil. Keep it separate from your compost heap as it’s slow to break down. Leaf mould makes superb mulch for weed suppression and water conservation.

2 Cut back any frost-damaged perennials to soil level and compost the leaves. Take this opportunity to lift and divide congested clumps of plants, dig out perennial weeds and mulch well for winter.

3 Rake up twigs and fallen leaves, leave some seed heads, woody material (fennel) for the birds and insects. Many seed heads look beautiful in frost and snow, so don’t be too thorough in your cutting at this stage. While the garden’s quiet, construct fences, paths and raised beds. Repair damaged woodwork and paint where possible.

4 Harvest your kale, leeks, cabbages and Brussels sprouts. Turn over ground on dry days when the soil is not waterlogged or frozen.

5 Turn your compost heap to let fresh air in, which will help turn your waste to compost. Cover with cardboard, newspapers or old carpet to keep the heat in.

6 Choose a dry day to tackle that south-facing wall, prune out old wood and tie in new shoots, repair or renew trellis and support wires.

7 On the cold and wet days, clear out your potting shed and greenhouse, clean pots and sterilise sowing trays, sit back with your seed catalogues to plan for the exciting new year in your garden.

8 Take time to assess your garden for further winter planting, find space for carex, dogwood and other winter features — much can be done with appropriate planting to make your winter garden more interesting and colourful.

* The garden in Ballintubbert in Co Laois has been restored over the past 10 years and was opened to the public last year. It was originally home to poet C Day Lewis (father of Daniel Day Lewis and poet laureate) who was born in the house in 1904 and the actors John Hurt and Sebastian Shaw. The settlement at Ballintubbert dates back to 1540 with the new garden having 14 acres of landscape arranged around a Georgian House.

* www.ballintubbert.com

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