Bring on the spring! Looking ahead to a new season in the garden
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Our gardening columnist is keen to bid farewell to all things festive and embrace a new year in the garden.
It doesn't seem possible that we are already looking back on another year that has passed in the garden.
For us, it feels like it has been dictated by the rain - either the abundance, or lack of it. We haven't yet had any really cold weather to deal with this winter, but of course that brings with it a whole different host of challenges - various bugs and pests in the garden which would be cleared away by a spell of real cold, and of course the lawns which needed cutting longer into the autumn than perhaps they used to.
The changes that we start to see in our own gardens as a result of global warming will be hard to ignore as the years roll on. Many more of us are starting, in our own ways, to make changes - both in how we garden, and also in how we conduct the rest of our lives, to try to limit the change as much as possible.
As I write this, the Christmas tree is still up in the corner of our sitting room, and there are twinkly lights on the wreath on the door - but I have been feeling the need to sweep all this away for the past few days.
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I don't know whether it's because I got into the Christmas spirit slightly earlier this year, and wanted the decorations up as soon as December arrived, but I feel desperate for the cleanliness and almost 'bare' feeling that I get when all of the decorations have been packed away.
There is something so cathartic about having a really good spring clean - both inside the house, and in the garden. Long before the Marie-Kondo craze of clearing out everything you own that doesn't 'spark joy', gardeners would have been able to tell you how much better you feel after you've stripped back all of the dead wood and cleared away the detritus in the garden that has gathered in the previous months.
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If you were really organised, you may have kept on top of clearing away the leaves when they fell in the autumn, but no matter how hard I tried to keep on top of raking them off the lawns, there are still quite a lot which have gathered on the flower beds.
They have, of course, now turned to a slightly sludge-like consistency, which makes them far harder to gather up - but I console myself that some of their goodness will have leached into the soil beneath.
I don't know whether it is the promise of the spring to come that makes me so eager to clear away the trimmings of Christmas, or whether it is just the fact that I know the house always feels much bigger without lots of decorations up.
Most likely is that during the long winter nights the pretty fairy lights and candles are cheering, but now that the days are getting longer, the promise of lovely warm spring days and all of the beauty that the garden is ready to share, is within touching distance. Snowdrops won't be far away, and beyond that hellebores, crocuses, tulips, and glorious primroses!
Whilst looking around our garden this morning, I noticed that there are lots of bulb shoots already well advanced through the soil.
If, like me, you are ready to welcome in the New Year and tidy away the old, now is a great time to start planning what you will do in your garden. Maybe you have a big project planned, or a re-landscaping of what you already have?
Sitting with a piece of paper and pencil and a big mug of tea writing down what you'd like to achieve this year is an excellent way of giving yourself some focus for the year to come in the garden.
If there is a shrub that is dominating a border but not really giving the flowers that you hoped it would, maybe this is the time to remove it and replace it with something different.
Sometimes we feel as though we can't get rid of plants that have been in our gardens for a long time, but as we wouldn't continue to shop in a supermarket that was constantly selling us bad quality food, we also don't have to persistently try to maintain plants year after year which don't fruit as they should, or which haven't thrived in their current position.
I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year, and I hope you will all make the most of your gardens and outdoor spaces in 2020!
Things to do in the garden this month:
- If you have bought a potted Christmas tree that you're planning to reuse next year, find somewhere for it outside.
- If you bought a real cut Christmas tree, make sure you recycle it - there are lots of ways to do this, including some council collections. Check your local council website for more information.
- If you have any parts of your garden that you will be using for planting vegetables this year, make sure you dig them over, if you haven't already done so.
- If you've been feeding the birds in your garden, make sure you carry on putting out food and fresh water for them - as the next couple of months will likely be the coldest.
- Start to keep an eye out for little bulb shoots coming through in your flower beds - they'll be everywhere before you know it.