A Windy January Day in the Garden

The last few days have seen the garden shrouded in frosty stillness. But today I awoke to blue skies and a wind so blustery it was more reminiscent of a November day. Not having been able to do much in the garden because of the cold, I decided to venture out and see what needed doing.

The end of January is a slightly frustrating time in the year. The tips of spring bulbs poke their heads tantalisingly through the soil, shrubs are showing signs of life with tiny buds appearing and the solitary song of the resilient little robin is starting to be joined by a few other garden birds, optimistic of the early spring around the corner. But there is still a sense that the garden is slow to wake. It is a time for tidying and preparation.

As I enter the garden I notice loose sprigs of ivy hanging from the apple tree. A few weeks ago I had pulled up the ivy from the base of the tree as it had started to take over some of the main branches. Leaving ivy on the top of the tree for a few days means that as it starts to die off, it loosens its hold slightly on the bark of the tree and so is a bit easier to pull off. Having removed the last of the ivy, a clematis which grows up through the tree in spring becomes more visible and it is apparent that it needs tying in to the main branch of the tree to protect it from the strong winds.

I next look to my shrub roses and make sure that I have pruned them enough to prevent wind rock, especially on this particularly blustery day. Once I am satisfied that my roses are alright, I take my secateurs to a couple of the larger shrubs in the garden. Now is a good time to prune shrubs in your garden, when they are dormant and you can clearly see the shape of the plant and how you want it to be when pruned.

The day’s trimming finished I turn my attention to my herbaceous borders. They look a bit sorry for themselves at the moment as I have cut down all the dead growth from last year and they are now all but bare. It’s a good time to give the plants an early feed. I like to use an organic blood, fish and bone mix or bone meal. Spread a thin layer over the ground so that you get a good covering. I then like to cover the beds with a thick mulch of well rotted manure or compost. This will protect the young shoots from any frosts to come and help the fertiliser soak well into the soil, providing a kick start to the plants in spring. A couple of garden planters I have positioned in the middle of one of my border with conical topiary box have fallen over in the wind and need righting.

Other things you need to look out for on a particularly windy day are making sure that any new tree samplings are well attached to their supports so that they don’t break off in the wind. Check that covers on garden furniture are secure. Remove less heaving garden ornaments such as lanterns and wind chimes so that they don’t blow over and break. Check any fencing to make sure it is still secure and hasn’t become detached.

My last job on this windy day is to check my vegetable patch. Most of the beds are dug over and bare now. But I do have a couple of beds where brassicas are keeping us in healthy greens over the winter months. I particularly like black kale which grows well all winter, especially if you pick it from the crown of the plant. I also have a new variety of sprout growing. Flowering sprouts have a look of broccoli or tiny cabbages but taste as good as brussels and perhaps even sweeter. Having picked some of these and the kale for dinner, I empty out the last of my parsnips, grown in large tubs. The last ones may be a little small, but they will be nice and sweet when roasted.

Only thing left to do now is to put all my tools safely away in the shed, take off my muddy boots and light the wood burner. Umm and in an hour or so the house will be filled with the smell of roasting beef!