Friday 20 January 2017

Put your garden to bed for winter

Dermot O'Neill

Published 06/11/2010 | 05:00

There are still a few jobs you can do before you finally put your garden to bed for the winter. You can do a last cut of the grass provided there is no rain and that the grass is dry.

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Don't cut too low, and wait until the spring to feed the grass again. You really should have done that in September or early October; November/December is too late.

Another option is to trim the edges of the lawn at this time of the year because it can make an enormous difference. Any leaves that blow in or fall into your garden can be composted -- this adds important organic matter to your compost heap.

Hardy things such as trees can be tidied up, and I'm a great believer in getting in professional tree surgeons because you can make all sorts of mistakes, such as cutting a tree too severely and leaving it vulnerable to fungal diseases. Get in a tree surgeon who knows how and where to prune, cut and tidy. Not only will they do it correctly, they will also keep the integrity and shape of the tree.

BORDERS

You still have time until December to put some lovely bulbs into your borders. I have loads of favourites including the tulip Queen of Sheba, which is orange and red with pointed petals. Plant the bulbs in a clump -- that way, you will see them from a distance when they come into flower next spring. However, don't plant tulips all in a row; they will blow over and you won't get the impact you want.

There is another tulip called Red Riding Hood, which is super for containers because it is a compact dwarf variety with a super flower and very attractive striped leaves.It is a very good time to plant some tulips in a pot for winter. You can put the bulbs low down and the plants above, and the tulips will come up between them.

WINTER FLOWERING

There are all kinds of gorgeous things that will flower through the winter, such as cyclamen (above right) pansies, primulas and gorgeous heathers (below). Trailing ivy looks very good at the edge of a container.

I recommend visiting your local garden centre -- pick things out and see how they look together in a trolley and then make your choice. Just remember that winter weather can be a bit severe on hanging baskets, as the wind and rain can cause a lot of damage to the plants.

Bird-friendly garden

Pyracantha is an evergreen which makes a very good hedging plant, with berries in glorious shades of red, yellow or orange. It is a good plant for a bit of colour and helps attract birds to your garden.

This is also a great time to consider putting up a bird-nesting box because it will acclimatise and settle down before spring comes, and will therefore not smell new.

There are different types of bird-nesting boxes. You should put them on an east-facing wall and make sure they are high enough so that cats can't climb up and catch the birds when they are learning to fly.

It is a bit too late now to cut hedges -- if you do, you may risk stimulating new growth which could be hit by late frost.

However, you can give your hedge a mulch of rotted garden compost or rotted farmyard manure. Spread it around the base, but it should not come up high on the stem. Ideally, it should be about two or three-inches high and a foot each side of the hedge.

You probably can't go into your neighbour's garden to do that, but even if you do it on your side, it improves the soil and it helps feed the hedge, giving it a good start for spring.

Irish Independent

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