By Sarah O'Neil
It isn’t going to get any warmer from now on. There isn’t much left to sow and plant – aside from the onion and garlic to go in on the shortest day next month. Most, if not all of the tired old plants have been removed and the garden is in a sort of suspended animation as growth slows right down. The only significant changes in the beds are when plants are removed so we can eat them. This is a time when the garden doesn’t really need me. Even the weeds take a bit of a break. I still go out there every day just to feel like I’m gardening.
The cold months are about a different kind of gardening. In the other three seasons, the garden is about micro managing the situation. Weeding, watering and harvesting daily and not forgetting the seemingly endless pest patrol. Winter is a time for macro managing the garden. It is the time for planning and projects. It is an exciting time that can see the construction of new things that were only dreamed about in the busy seasons.
This winter I have a large list of things I want to do. First and foremost is building the large 3 bin compost system of my dreams. Currently I have a pile. There is nothing wrong with a pile as it will all eventually rot down into something I can use to enrich my garden, however it is unsightly and largely uncontrolled. I want to be able to monitor the ratios of brown and green going in, so we get as close to ideal ratio 2 parts brown to 1 part green.
With the bin of my dreams I may even be motivated enough to actually turn the compost to aerate it at least once a month, and maybe even more. Weed seeds and nasty plants that don’t seem to want to die won’t be allowed in to my new system. It will be amazing – all I have to do is build it and my own black gold will soon be spread joyfully around the garden.
It is a good time for maintenance too. My raised beds need checking over to make sure none of the panels are coming loose. The boards may need to be replaced or just wacked back into place with a load of sturdy nails. The greenhouse could do with a bit of a wash while it is empty, on the inside and out, to remove moss, algae and grime that has built up on the glass. The shelves would also benefit from a good clean and disinfect to destroy any overwintering pests that will awaken as soon as things warm up in the spring and attempt to eat my seedlings.
The last major project I have on my mind is one borne out of a disaster. I have a lovely cast iron and wooden bench seat, that I lovingly replaced the wooden slats when they rotted through. However recently it met with a lawn mower in accident that resulted in the removal of the front legs. Initially I was devastated, but then the idea came to me to turn it into a swing seat. Having a relaxing spot to overlook the garden in the height of summer will be fabulous.
So while the next few months may not necessary one where our hands are found frequently in the soil, change can still be made for a better garden in the new season. Spring is less than 15 weeks away.