5 tips for winter gardening

Man standing in from of a poly tunnel

The New Year is a time for upkeep and preparation. Gardening broadcaster and author Paul Peacock suggests simple jobs to get started.

Paul studied botany at university and made a successful career of it, appearing regularly on BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time, writing for the Daily Mirror as his alter ego Mr Digwell and publishing more than 20 books on gardening and food. He continues to garden despite having heart failure and diabetes. Here are his top five tips for tending your garden at the beginning of the year. 

Top five tips for tending your garden in winter

1. Sow your onions

Boxing Day is traditionally a day for sowing onions, but you can do this anytime in January too. Sow the seeds into a tray of compost, then water and keep them warm. Later in the spring, move them into your onion bed.

2. Planting garlic and preparing groundwork

You can still plant garlic in January or February. Choose varieties that are bred for the UK climate, such as ‘Chesnok Wight’ and ‘Solent Wight’. First, you need to prepare the ground a little. I tend to avoid the garden when it’s cold, because I get tired and breathless, so choose a warmish day. Then, if you can, plant the garlic in raised beds or large pots. Preparing the bed is easy enough, simply take a hoe and chop away at the soil until it looks like crumbly cake mix.

3. Try to stay off the lawn if you can

Keep off the grass in January, especially if it snows, but if your lawn needs a tidy up, give it an edging. It might take you a fortnight to finish the job (it does me), but the results are as good as mowing.

4. Sowing lettuce and cabbage

You can sow lettuce in trays for leaf picking. I love ‘Winter Density’. Also you can sow the cabbage variety ‘All Year Round’ in trays and modules for transplanting later in the year.

5. Planting bare-rooted trees

January is the time for planting bare-rooted trees. Normally you would dig a big hole, take the newspaper off the roots of your tree and hold it while you back-fill with good-quality soil. Instead, I just take a spade, push it into the ground, wiggle it about to make a gap and plant in this. Then simply pile a load of compost around the tree and the job’s done, which avoids having to dig a big hole.

Paul's tips for gardening with a heart condition

  1. Hoeing while seated isn’t easy, so I had the handle of my hoe cut down.
  2. Before I start any strenuous gardening work, I do a warm-up. Holding the handle of a spade in both hands, I tap my feet on the shoulder of the blade 10 times each. Then I carry the spade across the lawn, slowly, and repeat. Some days I just do the toe taps, repeating three times.
  3. When planting garlic, the temptation is to make a hole with your finger, then pop the clove in. I only have small fingers and, as you need a good hole about 2–3 inches deep (5cm), I use a clothes peg, then drop the garlic in. Watch out: in a few weeks they’ll be growing roots and can push themselves out of the soil, so you’ll have to push them back in.

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