gardening with Anne McKeon

Well here we are again with another week’s gardening over and a busy week in prospect. I hope that you have been taking advantage of the intermittent spells of good weather because I feel that so much useful gardening work can be done in the autumn winter period. If you get it right at this time of year you can save yourself a lot of hardship in the spring.

The best time to dig, for instance, is in the autumn or early winter when the soil is often quite dry and not as wet as when it has had to endure a prolonged rainy winter period. Having said that, we seem to be getting two rather than four seasons per year over the past few years so you’d nearly need a crystal ball to determine when the time is right to dig, etc.

Have you been asking the question, why dig? In answer to that, digging opens up the soil to allow air penetration and helps to bury annual weeds and plant debris. This burying of debris returns nutrients back into the soil and improves drainage.

If you find digging boring but still want to garden then maybe you should plant a few bulbs. I have written about this in recent weeks but for those of you who may have missed my praise of bulbs, know that bulb planting is definitely not as strenuous as digging but it gives a great return and huge satisfaction. In case you are unaware of it, bulbs should be planted to their own depth and a half. If you plant bulbs too deeply they will flower in another continent. If on the other hand you do not plant them deep enough then the crows will take advantage and remove them from your garden and deposit them elsewhere, possibly in your neighbour’s garden. It is worth noting that the bigger the bulb the better the quality of the plant. A good quality bulb has a firm neck, a clean firm surface, with the base also firm and free of rot. Sounds logical and that it is!

Before commencing your winter digging make sure that you have the correct tools. A good spade is vital and do not, as I have seen so many do, dig with a shovel. A shovel is for the builder in your home and the spade is for the gardener. Tall gardeners should use long handled spades and gardeners like myself of shorter stature should use a short handled spade ensuring that you do not hurt your back. Once you have finished your work for the day it is vital that you clean down your spade and remove lodging soil. Attention to detail will extend the life of your spade.

I think that I have given you enough guidelines for this week and the rest is up to you so get digging!

Happy gardening!

Anne.

Garden checklist

• Continue preparing the ground for the planting of trees, roses, and shrubs during the winter months.

• Remove broken tree branches and tidy jagged breaks.

• Feed your lawn with an autumn feed.

• Take hardwood shrub and hedge cuttings.

• Plan your gardening chores for the coming months.

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