Gardening Calendar: Gardening Jobs for Early Winter

Use the short days to prune and spray fruit trees and protect tender plants against frost.

Early winter can be the coldest time of the year, except in severe years when temperatures drop lower still in mid to late winter. Gales and rain are common and there is usually little sunshine. When pressure rises and winds drop, fog and frost are likely.

South-westerly winds may bring showers and brighter intervals in England. At other times, north-east winds bring raw, cold weather. In the Midlands, afternoon temperatures average 7°C (45°F), with night temperatures falling below 2°C (35°F), but it is much colder in northern areas.

The most important general task in early winter is to tidy plots and complete the preparation of ground. Remember to eliminate draughts in the greenhouse.

Lawn Maintenance

If you are planning to sow an area of new lawn next spring, prepare the site if this has not been done already. Dig over the ground and apply well-rotted farmyard manure. It is always a good idea to have a small area of turf specially sown to use for patching up any damaged areas of lawn.

Water with HCH to control leatherjackets if this was not done in late autumn.

Avoid treading on the lawn when it is wet or frozen.  Lay down boards to prevent damage if heavy loads must be wheeled over the grass.

Clean and overhaul mowing machines and other lawn maintenance equipment. Oil them well before puffing them away in a dry place until the spring. A small-nozzle oil dispenser is useful for getting at intricate parts of the machinery.


Complete the planting of new stock, but not if the soil is wet and sticky or if there is frost or snow on the surface. If conditions are unsuitable, heel the roses in or keep them in a frost-free place.

Prepare established rose beds for winter. Shorten long growths to 75cm (2-1/2ft) and collect and burn fallen leaves which show signs of black spot. On heavy or compacted soils, 2-1/2ft chop up the top 2.5cm (1in) to expose it to frost for winter weathering. Ensure that cuttings planted out in early autumn are still firm in their open trenches.

Garden borders

Continue tidying beds and borders and digging between plants. If beds are close to tall-growing trees, shrubs or hedges, cut back invasive roots, using a sharp, deep-bladed spade. Push it deeply into the edge of the bed to sever outgrowing roots. Cut large, thick roots with a chopper or axe. Also prune overhanging branches of deciduous trees or bushes.

Replace worn turf beside beds and borders, and spread fresh gravel on paths if necessary.

After a frosty spell, re-firm the ground around chrysanthemums which are over-wintering outdoors and check for waterlogging. Bulbs Hoe beds of late-planted tulips and hyacinths, or spray them with a contact herbicide to control weeds.

Discard any unhealthy stored gladioli corms. If stored dahlia tubers are shrivelling, plunge them in tepid water overnight. Cut off parts which have rotted and dust the cuts with sulphur.


Plan your seed requirements for the coming season and send off your mail-orders as soon as possible. Continue digging ground to be used for next year’s hardy and half-hardy annuals, weather permitting.

Rock garden plants

Remove fallen leaves and fork over vacant spaces between the plants. Remove perennial weeds.

Sow slow-germinating seeds, and seeds needing exposure to frost to promote germination. Use clay pots or pans, or shallow wooden boxes. Put crocks or coarse gravel in the base and fill with a proprietary seed compost. Sprinkle shingle or coarse sand over the top if you are sowing very small seeds.

Distribute the seeds evenly and dust over with sand so that they are just covered. Put the containers outdoors and stand them on paving or a similar hard surface to prevent worms entering from below. Germination should start by the end of early spring, when the pans or boxes should be moved to a cold frame to prevent the seedlings from drying out.

Water gardens

Keep a small area of the pool free of ice to allow toxic gases to escape. Use a pool heater or place boards or rush matting over a small area of the pool to prevent ice from forming too quickly. Alternatively, stand a container of boiling water on the ice to melt a hole but be careful not to touch any fish.

Shrubs and trees

In mild weather continue to plant deciduous trees and shrubs, treading the soil around the roots. Re-firm soil loosened by frost around previously planted shrubs.

To prevent heavy snow breaking the branches of conifers, wind string round the branches and trunks to keep them together.

Gather fallen leaves into a heap to make leaf-mould for top-dressing the garden next spring.

In cold districts, bring tub-grown hydrangeas and fuchsias into a cold greenhouse or shed.

Rhododendrons and azaleas may be planted if the weather is fine. Spray the flower buds with a bird repellent.


Complete the planting of deciduous hedges. If plants arrive when the ground is frozen or wet, store them in a frost-free shed with straw around their roots until the weather improves.

18. June 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Garden Management, Gardening Calendar | Tags: , | Comments Off on Gardening Calendar: Gardening Jobs for Early Winter


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