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Expert Shares 6 Mistakes You Make in Your Garden During Winter and how to Prevent Them

Oct 30, 2023
Lamp in Snowy Garden

With the cold weather fast approaching, maintaining our outdoor spaces can be forgotten.

Helen Nyul, Group Head of Biodiversity at Barratt Developments, said: “Winter is a key time of year for maintaining your garden. Taking care of your space during this season allows for plants, wildlife and furniture to endure the colder months, and sets the stage for a bountiful spring garden.

“The effort you invest now will be well rewarded in the spring. It doesn’t have to be completed in one day. Even the smallest of tasks yield significant benefits for both you and your outdoor sanctuary.”

What can you do this winter to ensure your plants withstand the colder months and your garden is in good shape for spring/summer 2024?

To help you find out more, Barratt Homes have shared their top tips on winter gardening that will encourage your outdoor space to thrive.

1. Keep your garden tidy

Just as you do with your indoor space, it is just as important to prioritise cleaning your outdoor space in preparation for winter. Keeping on top of weeding during winter is easier as soil is loosened by rain. Investing in a good hoe will help to dig out weeds at the source, reduce the need for herbicides and will also save your back.

Jet washing your patio prevents the spread of excessive dirt that can occur during the colder months due to harsh weather such as snow, wind, and heavy rain. Leaving fallen leaves can help create micro-climates for invertebrates and, as the leaves rot, will create fertiliser for the next growing season. If you prefer a tidier look, collect your leaves and compost them. Leaf mulch is a great fertiliser that can help your plants grow.

2. Mow the lawn

UK Google search data over the last 30 days has seen a 5,000% increase in searches for ‘lawn mower blade sharpening near me’ and ‘garden weed brush lawn mower’, highlighting that people are already beginning their garden to-do list.

During winter especially, long grass can be almost impossible to cut. So, before the temperature drops, mow the lawn before it gets too long, and frost arrives. Mowing during winter is important to keep lawns in good condition and to help promote a healthy sward, especially if you leave it long during the summer months.

Maintaining your petrol lawn mower is another task which is often overlooked. It is important to drain its oil, clean and empty any cuttings, and replace its filter so that when spring comes, it will be in good condition and uses fuel efficiently.

3. Storing furniture and tools

Leaving your garden furniture out in the cold weather unprotected can cause damage, such as ageing, discolouration, stains, or furniture being blown over, which could prove costly when you want to make the most of your outdoor space in the summer.

Storing your furniture in a place where it is safe from exposure to harsh weather is crucial to preserve its quality. If the furniture does not fit indoors or in a shed, you could cover it with a secure, weather-proof cover.

Gardening tools that are left outside in damp conditions over winter will become damaged, meaning you’ll likely have to fork out for new ones when spring arrives. Tackling this by storing them correctly in a dry and sheltered place, such as in a shed, garage, or storage box, will ensure that they are in good condition when spring comes around. This will also prevent them from being stolen.

4. Over-wintering plants

Delicate plants, such as Dahlias and Pelargoniums, can be protected from harsh weather conditions, such as frost and snow, by adding plant covers or lifting them and bringing them indoors. They can be kept moist in a conservatory, greenhouse or even a cold frame. You can make a DIY cold frame using old windows and off-cuts of wood found online or in skips.

If you want to leave plants in situ, trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials can be cut back and a thick layer of mulch added to give them protection. The best materials for mulch are compost, well-rotted manure, straw, or bark.

Pruning plants in winter helps to promote vigorous growth during the next growing season and extends their life.

5. Planting for winter and spring

UK Google search data has seen a 450% increase in searches for ‘winter garden plants UK’ in the past 30 days, suggesting that Brits are looking to plant new greenery that will survive the cold weather.

There is plenty to encourage you to venture into your garden during the winter, including climbers such as winter-flowering Jasmine, Clematis and Honeysuckle or shrubs such as Mahonia, Viburnum Tinus or Vibernum Burkwoodii.

The real showstoppers are Hellebores, which produce pretty, nodding blooms in winter and early spring. They love dappled shade, but some will grow in sun and others in deeper shade.

Planting for spring is best done before the end of November when the soil is still warm. As rainfall is high, it's the optimal time for new plants to thrive.

Planting crocus and snowdrop bulbs in containers or borders will give you a feeling of hope at the first signs of early spring. Planting close to your kitchen window or door will mean that you can enjoy the flowers indoors when the weather is poor.

Try to plant for succession, so when one plant finishes blooming, the next one starts. Early spring flowers can be followed by tulips and daffodils to create colour amidst the gloomy skies.

6. Helping wildlife

Just as we prefer to cosy-up indoors during cold periods, wildlife also gravitates towards warmth and shelter. Placing clean nest boxes for birds, maintaining feeders and having a compost heap can help wildlife to thrive.

Compost heaps in particular host a variety of wildlife during the cold months, including queen bumblebees and hedgehogs. Ensuring that the compost is accessible to wildlife is vital, so check that the container opening is clear for them to enter and leave from.

If you have a hedge, autumn and winter are optimal times to cut them back, as birds will have finished nesting. If your hedge produces berries, consider leaving pruning until as late as possible before spring to allow wildlife to eat the berries.

If you have a pond or bird bath in your garden, keep an eye on it, so it remains clean and frost-free. Toxic gases can build up in frozen ponds which can harm the wildlife, such as fish and frogs, living in there.

Ice should be melted slowly when spotted to cause minimal disruption to any wildlife. You can carefully place a saucepan of hot water onto the surface of the pond to melt a hole in the ice. It’s important to never tip boiling water onto it or break the ice with force, as this can cause further harm.