Sunday, 4 December 2011

Gone but not forgotten

I thought I'd stop by just to remind you that I haven't dropped of the face of the planet and that this blog is still running even if it is in its winter hibernation right now.

I'm toasting my toes in (sub-tropical) Naples, Florida for the winter (October through March) and I am constantly reminded how lucky I am by my friends and family but I can't tell you how homesick I get for my garden!  Yes, even in winter.  I am also endlessly reminded how few times I'd actually be in the garden in those months and, again, even though my head agrees something in me desperately misses those times, however few.  Even the view from my kitchen window here which is composed of masses of exotic greenery only serves to remind me of the beauty of an English winter garden.  I love the stark thinness of it all set against a slight frost or morning mist.  The colours are so gentle on the eye and we are constantly reminded that everything needs rest and calm.  I never see the garden as dead in the winter; it is just sitting back and catching its breath, ready to begin again.  There really isn't any stopping point if you watch your garden.  The autumn second flush of my New Dawn roses often goes on into December if the weather is mild and certainly there are many lovely plants to look forward to in the colder months.  I love seeing the first tips of the bulbs coming through and following their slow progress with my own human impatience willing them into flower and then being sad when they are over.  It is hard to think of anything more lovely than the first snowdrops followed by crocus and daffs and then the glorious blousy drunken tulips.  I don't need to wait until April to miss Bury.  Oh, to be in England .....

I am returning for a very short Christmas break and hope for some friendly weather (unlike the last two winters) so I can get out into the garden and do some chores.  I thought I'd share my proposed list with you to set you thinking about what you could be doing out there right now.

There is a good month by month list on the Thompson and Morgan site which would prompt you better than my (ten days at home) list as it will cover the six months I'm not here and lots of things you are growing or wanting to grow which I don't have.  They also have a good seed sowing guide which has something you can be growing all year. That said here's my try-to-do-it-when-I-am-home jobs:

- Prune climbing roses, cut out diseased and damaged wood and tie in new shoots.  Prune back by two thirds.

- Check all my climbers are tied in properly.

- Think about planting any more bulbs.  I know October is the month but I've found over the years you can pretty much plant any time (when it isn't freezing) and you'll get a result.

- Just use the spaces in the garden to think about paths and access to plants for next year.

- Clean up the bird feeders and baths and put out a mass of food as we won't be there to do it for them in the worst months.

In my parents garden when I was a child my mom and (mostly) my dad used to just chuck all the veggie peelings and waste in a (semi) hidden heap in the corner of the garden somewhere and every so often they would spread it around the plants like a mulch. It didn't obey any composting laws.  Conventional wisdom says fresh compost like that would burn a plant's roots and stems.  It seemed to work just fine for them.  I saw a suggestion in the T & M site which suggested this is done through the winter in the place where you will be growing runner beans next year.  You need to dig a trench and just keep spreading your veggie waste along it.  I suspect it would be better if it was chopped up into smallish pieces.  This is left open to the elements to rot down to feed the beans.  If you were concerned that it might be a bit too 'new' when you come to put the beans in I am sure it would be fine if it was buried in the trench and then newspaper or cardboard on top to hold in the moisture.  They shouldn't need feeding or watering all summer.  I suppose we are supposed to worry about newspaper ink and what paper and cardboard is made of these days?

For now, happy winter gardening and I hope you have a lovely Christmas.