As the foul winter weather slowly clears up and allows you to put your nose out of doors for more than five minutes, it may be time to think about tidying up your garden. One of the attractions of that house when you moved into it was its “indoor/outdoor flow” or “spacious section”. Now you have to clean the outside as well as clean the inside.
For this cleaning job, you will not be using the professional maid tools such as mop, duster and vacuum cleaner. The tools are much bigger: loppers, hedge trimmers, lawn-mowers (not that you’ll use them much in winter) and chainsaws (and probably lots more). You won’t have as much need for specialised cleaning product, at least not at this time of the year.
For garden cleaning in winter, you probably won’t need to deal with things like lawns and weeds – these don’t grow so much at this time of year. This is, however, the best time of year to tidy things by pruning.
Nature may have already done a bit of pruning for you if you have large trees and sent a few large branches down. It’s best not to wait for this to happen, as branches can do a lot of damage if they fall down and you will be left with an even bigger clean-up job. Keep an eye out for branches that look under strain, dead, dying or overhanging your garage roof and get rid of them. If you can reach them easily enough, have a go yourself with a chainsaw and/or loppers. If you’re the slightest bit unsure, it may be time to call in a “professional cleaner” for trees, aka a gardener or tree surgeon. If you can, chop up, dry and store the wood from the fallen branches to heat your home next winter – or try your hand at wood turning.
Hedges are an easier proposition than trees to prune and trim. Even if you’re not into manicured hedges or topiary, hedges will need regular trimming.
This is best done with properly hedge-trimmers – it’s a lot harder to do with shears, although not impossible. Shears are better for a smaller box or privet hedge that has been regularly maintained – they are no good at all for a thick cypress hedge with fat branches. Simply cut the hedge smoothly to the shape you want it.
Also prune roses at this time of year. Pruning roses is easier than you think. Roses are very tough and forgiving, so short of cutting them off an inch above the ground, it’s hard to make a mistake. Get a good sharp pair of secateurs for this job. Start by cutting off all dead branches. Then cut off all the branches that aren’t pointing where you want them to. Lastly, trim down the branches you want to sprout new growth – leave about three growth buds (they look like potato eyes) on the branch in question.
If you want to tidy your garden by moving or planting new plants, this is also an idea time of year to do it. If you are transplanting shrubs, don’t attempt it with anything too large, as you will have trouble getting up all the roots. But for smaller shrubs such as daphne, rosemary or roses (again), all you need to do is first dig a large hole where you want to put the shrub. Put some blood and bone down the bottom. Then carefully dig up the shrub you want to move, taking as much root and as much dirt around the root as possible. Then transfer the shrub – roots, dirt and all – into the hole where it’s going to do. Put in as much dirt as you need to fill the hole to the top, then water it (unless the ground’s really soggy, in which case you should not have been working the soil – too late now!).