Gardening In Winter: Your Complete Guide

Your complete guide to gardening in the winter this lockdown

For many keen gardeners, winter can be a frustrating part of the year. Dormant plants, a lack of colour and weeks of rain and drizzle are enough to keep even the most fanatic gardeners out of the garden until spring.

But if you’re brave enough to face the British winter head on, you’ll find there are lots of things that can be done in your garden while it hibernates. And now, as we face our third lockdown of the pandemic, there’s even more reason to get outside, get active and get the garden ready for brighter days. It’s the perfect opportunity to take stock, tidy up, protect and nurture your plants and plan ahead to warmer days.

In this winter gardening guide, we highlight all the jobs you can do in your garden this winter, from the practical to the creative.  We’ll also explain how winter gardening can help your garden thrive all year round.

This guide includes:

1.Why you should keep gardening in the winter

2.Our winter gardening tips

a. Tree and shrub pruning

b. Tidying your garden in the winter

3.Greenhouse gardening in winter

4.Creative winter gardening ideas

a. Plant winter garden containers

b. Growing vegetables in the winter

Why you should keep gardening in the winter

Gardening in the winter is important for your garden’s year-round health. Although your plants might look dormant, or even dead, they’re still very much alive. And, in most cases, they need a bit of TLC to help them thrive as best as possible when the warmer weather eventually returns.

Let’s explore the key reasons why gardening in the winter can benefit the health of your garden.

1. Winter is the perfect time to plan your garden for the year ahead

Winter is a great time to think about how you want your garden to evolve as the year unfolds. Beautiful, fruitful gardens require planning and preparation in order to get best results, and winter provides the perfect down time to do exactly that.

In order to effectively plan and prepare your garden for the year, you should ask yourself some questions about what you want. This will help you plan your planting and preparation in the most effective way possible.

Answer the following questions:

  1. What plants do you want to grow this year?
    • Do you want to plant fruit and vegetables?
      • If yes, which fruit and veg do you want to grow?
      • When do they need planting?
    • What extra materials do you need for these plants?
    • Do you want flowers in your garden all year round?
    • If so, when do you need to plant various plants and seeds?
  2. Do any of your plants need repotting or moving?
    • What extra pots or containers do you need?
    • Is there any other equipment you’ll need?
  3. Will you be changing any aspect of your garden design?
    • If yes, what do you need to prepare?

When you have your answers, create an annual calendar that includes what plants you want to grow and when.

The RHS Plant Finder is a great tool to help you find the right plants for your garden, while their identifier helps you work out what you already have.

2. Gardening in the winter allows you to tidy up and take stock 

After you’ve planned what you want to do with the year ahead, the winter is a great time to take stock of what you already have and plan to fill in any gaps ahead of the spring. We love a good old fashioned stock take - from plant pots to bamboo, from seeds to topsoil. Assess what plants, garden accessories and equipment you have, and make a list of things you need in order to fulfil your plan for the year.

The winter season is also a great time to tidy up your garden and get it looking as sparkly as possible for the spring and summer season. Consider clearing that neglected area at the back of your garden, finally getting rid of that rusty bird bath or remove that rotten fence.

3. The preparation you do in winter will make your spring even more vibrant

Spring is a magical season for gardens. New plants sprout, flowers start to bloom and green returns to every corner. While nature will ensure this happens every year, there are things you can do in the winter that will help your garden bounce back in the most spectacular way.

Our winter gardening tips

Now we’ve covered the benefits of gardening in the winter, let’s take a look at how we can achieve them. There are lots of proactive, useful tasks you can do in your garden during the winter that will help you enjoy your garden, even if you have to put on five layers of clothes and brave the frosty air.

First, we cover key maintenance winter gardening tasks you should get on top of, and then we move on to more creative winter gardening.

Tree and shrub pruning

Frosty branches

Tree and shrub pruning is an essential part of your garden’s overall health, and the winter is an excellent time to get on top of this particularly important task. Annual pruning will help keep your plants and trees healthy, neat, and ready to bloom with even more force in the spring.

What is pruning?

Tree and shrub pruning is when you remove dead, infected or overgrown branches on your trees to improve their overall shape and health. In the winter, it’s simpler to prune because there are no leaves covering the tree’s branches. This makes it easier to see the structure and which branches are damaged or too big.

There are lots of benefits to tree pruning in the winter. These include:

  • Preventing diseases and improving overall tree health when your trees are at their weakest (your trees are always weaker during the winter months)
  • Causing less stress for your trees compared with pruning when they have leaves (this keeps them happier and healthier)

Rules for tree pruning in the winter

In order to effectively prune your trees and shrubs in the winter, you need to follow some key rules:

  1. Never prune too close to a bud - leave some space
    • Pruning too close to a bud can damage it and prevent it from growing into a leaf or flower when spring comes.
  2. Always make a straight cut.
    • A severe diagonal cut will leave a pointed stem which can cause the stem to die all the way up to where the bud is growing. This can kill the bud, too.
  3. Use clean, sharp secateurs to prevent the spread of diseases
    • Old or blunt secateurs can cause your tree harm and even spread diseases
  4. Never prune too far away from the bud.       
    • This can result in the wood between the cut and the bud below dying

What you need to prune your trees

To prune your trees and shrubs in the winter, you’ll need a bit of equipment to help you do it as efficiently and as safely as possible.

Depending on how high your trees are, we’d suggest the basic kit would be:

  1. A good pair of secateurs 
  2. A safe ladder to reach high branches
  3. Good gardening gloves

At Henchman, our range of tripod ladders are designed to keep you safe at heights, no matter how uneven the surface or bad the weather. That means you can even use our ladders if you’re pruning trees on soft of uneven ground.

If you’re working on hard ground in the winter, you can use our extra  working at heights on flat ground during slightly more dangerous months.

Tidying your garden in the winter

Cleaning the house gutters and clearing lose debris

Clogged gutter

During the winter and following from autumn, your garden and outside space is more prone to collecting clutter and debris. Bad weather and high winds will likely mean your garden and the outside of your property will accumulate unwanted material.

Towards the end of winter, it’s a good idea to give your gutters, lawns and flower beds a good clean out, removing all the debris that’s blown in over the last few months. Gutters are especially prone to clogging, so it’s a good idea to check these regularly. It’s important to clear gutters to prevent any blockages that could lead to penetrating damp issues in your home. 

Our ladders are the ideal ladders for cleaning gutters safely and securely. As they’re designed specifically to keep you safe when working at heights. You’ll feel secure and safe even when reaching as far as your property’s roof. Check out our range of tripod ladders to find the right sized ladder for your home’s roof.

Cleaning windows and door frames

During the darkest days of winter, you’ll need as much light as you can get. Giving your windows a good clean is a great way to brighten your living space during the winter months, especially the windows that face the garden.

For tall windows, or windows on the second floor of your home, you’ll need the right equipment to make cleaning them as safe as possible. Our tripod ladders offer the perfect stability and safety for window cleaning, as they’re especially designed to help keep you safe when working at heights, and allow you to work with both hands at the same time. You can also use them with our rubber feet to reduce extra slipping risk in the winter.

Cleaning your garden pavements, slabs and decking

Cleaning decking

There’s no better time than the end of winter to give your garden surfaces a good clean.

After months of moss growth, rain and mud, your pavements, decking and garden slabs deserve a good scrub - and the end of winter is the perfect time to do it. That’s because your plants will still be dormant, meaning if an accidental power jet spray hits their branches, it won’t do so much damage!

So get yourself a power washer, and uncover those sparkly clean pavements and slabs ready for when your garden comes back to life in spring.

Tidying up plant beds and composting dead plants

Not all plants make it through the year. Some are seasonal and will need removing through the year, others simply die off for natural reasons. Either way, this is totally normal. It’s important however to still clear old plants before they start to rot and become host to pests and diseases.

Therefore it’s a great idea to have a composting process in place. While composting efficiency slows down due to low temperature, composting throughout the winter is still best practice. It provides you with fresh, healthy compost ready to use in spring, and means you have an eco-friendly way to clear out old plants.

Simply collect any old and dead plants in your flower beds or veg patches and put them in your compost tumbler. This guide has excellent tips on how to compost in the winter.

At Henchman, our rotating compost tumblers are perfect for gardens of all sizes, and allow you to create healthy compost all year round - even in the winter.

Greenhouse gardening in winter

Greenhouse in winter

While the greenhouse loses some of its green during the winter, there are still things you can do to help your plants cope over the winter. You can also maintain and repair your greenhouse’s structure, helping it to become more efficient in the spring and summer. 

Looking after your greenhouse in the winter

Let’s look at some of the things you can do to be more proactive when gardening in your greenhouse this winter.

1. Clean your greenhouse’s panels

This is an important winter task because it maximises the light that enters during the darker winter months. You can wash your greenhouse panels much like you’d clean normal windows - just make sure you dry them on the inside to prevent too much humidity.

2. Replace broken or loose-fitting greenhouse panels

Giving your greenhouse a good health check is important, and the downtime of winter offers the perfect time to do it. Making sure your panels are in good health is crucial for eliminating draughts and keeping unwanted moisture out. Check all your panels are snuggly fitted and replace any panels that have seen better days.

Remember - our tripod ladders are perfectly designed to help you reach and lean while using both hands. This makes them ideal for reaching the top of your greenhouse to clean or repair the panels easily and safely.

3. Actively avoid possibility for disease and pests to invade

Unwanted pests and diseases will start to seek shelter from colder weather in the winter, and there’s no better place than a greenhouse. To reduce the risk of an infestation, you should:

  • Clear out any unwanted grow bags, pots or containers
  • Tidy away tools and equipment
  • Clean your tools and pathways with a garden disinfectant spray

4. Maintain your greenhouse’s temperature

Your greenhouse’s temperature should always be between 5-7 degrees during the winter. Try to keep on top of the temperature by regularly checking in the morning and evening. Then, if you find you need to act, you can use extra heating, or close and open the greenhouse vents as needed to maintain the ideal temperature.

5. Take special care of your plants

Any vegetables or plants that are staying in your greenhouse through the winter will need all the care they can get. Some key tricks to ensure they’re as happy as possible include:

  • Space plants out as much as possible to make sure they’re not competing for light
  • Remove anything that looks like it’s infected or dying to avoid an infestation of other pests
  • Cover your more delicate plants with things like fleece or newspaper, especially if it’s forecasted to be particularly cold for a few days

Creative winter gardening ideas

Aside from garden maintenance in the winter, the season also offers gardeners the opportunity to be imaginative. From growing vegetables to planting bright winter flowers, let’s have a look at some of the more creative things you can do in the garden during the winter.

Plant winter garden containers

Winter garden containers

Just because its winter doesn’t mean your garden can’t show signs of life. Planting winter plants in garden containers is a great way to add a temporary burst of colour to your garden - even if you only enjoy it from the warmth of your home!

What are garden containers?

Garden containers are long containers or pots that let you grow plants without having to grow them in the ground. Garden containers are usually small to medium sizes and are used for displaying seasonal live flowers or plants.

Winter container gardening ideas

For avid gardeners looking for something more creative to do, it’s a great idea to plant containers in winter. For winter gardening in particular, garden containers provide a dedicated space to nurture plants you know won't last all year (or plants you don’t want to plant in the ground for whatever reason.) You can even grow vegetables in containers.

What to plant in your garden containers in winter

When it comes to adding a bit of colour to your garden in the winter, there are lots of different flowering plants that you can plant in your garden containers (or in your garden beds, if you’d prefer).

Some common winter plants for garden containers include:

Snowdrops

Snowdrop flowers

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens

Winter-flowering pansy

Winter flowering pansy

Cyclamen

Cyclamen flower

Skimmia

Skimmia flower

These plants are all fairly easy to plant and look after, but there are lots of other plants that will brighten up your garden while the sun hides away.

Gardeners World has put together a list of colourful winter pots ideas which provides some excellent inspiration.

Growing vegetables in the winter

Vegetables

While the spring and summer treat us with blooming flowers, scrumptious berries and luscious greenery, winter spoils us with tasty vegetables that offer hearty, wholesome fuel.

If you want to keep your garden feeding you this winter, it’s not too late to plant some tasty vegetables ready for harvest into late winter and spring.

What vegetables can you grow in the winter?

If you planned your harvest the year before, you’ll know winter is a fruitful season for harvesting what you planted in late summer. Root vegetables like carrots, beetroot and parsnips can all be harvested during the winter months.

But, if you’re looking for more to do and want to continue growing over the winter, you can sew new seeds over these months, too.

Brassicas do really well over the winter months, and can be sewn from November to January without many problems. Common brassicas include:

  • kale
  • cabbage
  • broccoli

You can also look at planting variations of onion or garlic, such as:

  • onions
  • shallots
  • garlic
  • spring onions
  • asparagus

Ideally, onion and garlic need to go in before or after the first big freeze to ensure they don’t get too cold before they start to sprout. You may want to use your greenhouse if you have one available.

Looking after your vegetables in the winter

If you’re deciding to grow new vegetables during the winter, you’ll need to be a bit more proactive when it comes to nurturing them and making sure they’re getting exactly what they need.

Watering your vegetables in the winter

In the UK, there isn’t a shortage when it comes to water - especially in the winter! So, you won’t need to water your growing vegetables too much. Avoid the temptation to do so unless it’s been dry for weeks on end (a rarity in the UK!) or unless you’re growing your vegetables in the greenhouse. Even with greenhouse crops, the moisture in the air should help the plants get what they need - so don’t water unless it’s completely necessary!

Getting your vegetables enough sunlight in the winter

Sun is harder to come by in the winter, so it’s important to position your plants in places where they’ll get as much sunlight as possible.

If your garden doesn’t get sunlight throughout the day, you might want to sew new vegetables in containers so you can position them where there will be more sunlight. Space out vegetables in greenhouses so they all have access to as much sunlight as possible.

Avoiding infestations of pests and disease

Plants and seedlings will be especially vulnerable to common garden pests.

Slugs and snails will be thrilled about new seedlings, so you’ll need to make sure you can find ways to deter them from chomping away at your veg before you do. Good deterrents include:

  • Plant-friendly pesticide
  • Broken egg shells
  • Sand sprinkled on the soil
  • Use copper wire to make tiny fences (snails and slugs don’t like copper!)

Garden with confidence this winter

At Henchman, we love gardening. But we love helping our customers garden safely even more.

Our range of gardening products are designed to help keep you safe no matter what you’re doing. From hedge trimming and tree pruning, to clearing out your gutters and cleaning your windows, we want you to feel safe when working at height or on uneven surfaces.

So, if you’re looking forward to maintaining and enjoying your garden this winter, check out our range of garden accessories  and ladders.

Garden with confidence this winter. If you have any questions about our products and they can help you, get in touch with us today. Give us a call on 03333 444229.

Henchman ladder in use