30 Jun 2022

Gardening tasks for the Christmas break

With Jo McGarry of Caragh Nurseries

Gardening tasks for the Christmas break

File photo

With the huge surge of interest in gardening this year among the general public, due to Covid-19; and the very much played-down Christmas that most of us are having, I will definitely be out in the garden over the festive period.

What better to banish the winter blues? You might not think there’s much you can do, but anything done now will help to make that mad spring rush more manageable.

At Christmas time, my attention is drawn to seeds for the coming year. I head online to a couple of my favourite seed companies and plan and order whatever seeds I like for the coming spring. I always order far too many, so another job is to sort out any leftover or half-empty seed packets and throw out any that are now out of date or damaged.

Take the time to organise them into seed tins, it is well spent. If you leave the seed order until the spring, I can guarantee that you will miss out and if this year is anything to go by, you might not get everything you want come the end of January.

* Draw up your plans for your garden for the coming year. Include the things you want to do and the areas of planting that need attention.

Any structural jobs that need a professional should be planned now too as that will make a difference to how your planting is going to look and progress.

* Plant hardy trees, shrubs, roses, climbers and perennials, providing the soil isn’t waterlogged. Now is the time to plant any bare-root or rootballed trees, hedges and things like roses. If the weather does take a sudden change for the worse and the temperatures drop, then do keep off heavy clays as much as possible, as you can damage the soil structure when it's frozen.

*Continue to tidy up beds and borders, clearing away dead and dying leaves and faded flower stems. Now is also the time to move deciduous small trees, shrubs and climbers that are growing in the wrong place.

Don’t be tempted to move trees or shrubs that are very mature, as the risk of losing them is probably too great unless you are happy to take that risk.

Prune climbing roses now; cut away diseased or damaged growth and tie in any new shoots to their support. Prune older flowered side shoots back by two thirds of their length.

* Avoid walking on lawns covered with frost. It's really true that walking on the frost-frozen grass causes damage. When frozen, the leaves become brittle, and will not yield to pressure, which means when trodden on they snap and break.

Where grass has been walked on, this leaves brown marks where the grass is damaged, which look unsightly into the spring and the damage will make that patch more susceptible to disease.

Given how hard it is to create a decent lawn, it's worth making the extra effort to keep it looking right. We will have a exclusive feature on lawns in the early spring when the lawnmower is ready to kick back into action, so you can all have the best-looking lawns around.

*Weeds may still appear in mild weather, so hoe regularly to prevent them becoming established. If your garden is anything like mine, no matter what time of year or how much work I do those pesky weeds still manage to find a way to take hold.

I feel a little like Mr McGregor chasing Peter Rabbit sometimes when I see a new weed that not only has taken root but taken hold and won’t let go!

* It is a little early to start painting to protect or using a preservative. I tend to start this around mid February and this year I have a few things to paint as part of my new garden.

My light colours over the last few years are taking on a much darker trend, so the question is am I brave enough to go as far as using black paint on some of my larger areas? I hope so, I think it's going to be stunning.

A few other jobs to do over the Christmas Period

* It’s not too late to take hardwood cuttings of various deciduous shrubs and soft fruit.

* Continue feeding wild birds with high-energy bird foods to help them through the winter.

* Make sure bird baths and other water sources for wild birds are kept from freezing over.

* Carefully melt frozen ponds with a pan of hot water. Don’t smash the ice – this can harm any fish.

* Clean pond filters and pumps.

* Check that compost in containers doesn’t dry out and water if necessary.

* Prune established, free-standing apple and pear trees, if they need it.

* Clean old pots and seed trays, so that they’re ready for seed sowing in spring.

* Prune red, white and blackcurrants, gooseberries and grape vines.

* Draw up plans for next year's vegetable garden and order seeds and other planting material.

* Dig over the soil in the vegetable patch if you garden on heavy clay soil and didn’t do it last month.

* Cover overwintering brassicas with horticultural fleece or netting to stop pigeons getting at them.

* Clean decking and patio slabs – which will also help reduce the risk of slipping on them.

* Most importantly of all, though, is to have a peaceful and Happy Christmas. Enjoy the simpler Christmas this year and take time to enjoy spending time doing the things you love, with those you love around you.

I’m not looking forward to spending the first Christmas in a very long time without my dad visiting but he’s in the UK. We all need to hold on for a few more months and spring will come, the flowers will come and the garden will come to life - and with it hopefully will come happier times, when we can see our family members again.

A very Happy Christmas from Ian and I and from us all at Caragh Nurseries. Stay safe!

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