Winter checklist will reap benefits
inter is a good time for many tasks that, if carried out now, will reward the gardener with a grand show of blooms or fruit in spring and summer. Rose care
Remove leaves and other debris around your rose bushes to prevent diseases and pests from overwintering. Burn or bin these. Spray with copper to combat fungal diseases (rust, black spot, powdery mildew) and pests. Spray once before pruning, once after pruning and then once more 3-4 weeks later. Spraying oil helps control scale and mites as well. But don’t spray copper and oil on the same day as pruning as it interferes with the natural healing process of wounds. Carry out pruning mid-to-late winter. Prune on a dry day, removing all dead and diseased stems and keeping the centre of the bush open to allow good air flow. Cut other stems back by about half.
There’s not much point sowing anything in the garden this month – unless it’s garlic. But even then you want to make sure the soil is freedraining. In heavy, waterlogged soil the bulbs are likely to rot. Break off the individual bulbs from your seed garlic (available from garden centres) and plant the fattest ones in nutrient-rich soil in full sun. Push each clove, unpeeled and pointy end up, about 5cm deep and 10-15cm apart. You can grow your garlic in pots if your soil is gluggy. Just remember to keep plants well watered during spring growth. As soon as the leaves appear, foliar feed fortnightly for a couple of months.
Plant a fruit tree
Bare-root deciduous fruit trees will be appearing in shops soon. Grab yourself a tree and plant it immediately in a sunny, sheltered spot in the garden. Dig a hole twice as big as the root ball. If your tree is grafted, make sure the graft is above soil level. New trees need a little TLC in their first year: Stake plants when positioning (two stakes either side of the tree, with flexible ties), water regularly and keep mulched in the warmer months to conserve moisture.
Grapefruits bear their sunny fruit during winter. Trees are typically prolific, so preserve your harvest by making marmalade or curd. Or eat them fresh. Grapefruit is delicious sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon and grilled until the sugar is golden brown. You can also make a tasty savoury salsa. Combine 2 cups grapefruit segments, 1 diced avocado, 1-2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 tablespoon honey, 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves, teaspoon ground coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and serve with chicken or fish.
Build a cold frame
Seedlings, cuttings and tender plants will be more cosy in a cold frame. It’s a simple matter of building a box frame from scrap wood and fixing a recycled window to the top, with hinges, for easy access. Or for a quick fix, push stakes in the ground around plants and cover with frost cloth.
Colourful: Prune your roses now for a beautiful summer display.
Top crop: Garlic needs awell-drained soil and sunny situation to do well.