Year Round UK Gardening Tips and Tricks from Roddy Llewellyn

January

  • LAWN MOWER – have it serviced now before the rush for demand in the spring. Give some loving attention to those faithful tools that make gardening possible. They will appreciate a clean and an oil.
  • BIRDS will reward you for feeding them during this lean time by eating caterpillars in the summer.
  • Sit in a comfortable armchair and go through all those SEED CATALOGUES that have been piling up, and dream of all those delicious vegetables and colourful flowers.
  • Please don’t let that lovely INDIAN AZALEA you were given for Christmas by Aunt Gladys die! Keep its compost damp, using fresh rainwater, and keep it in the cool. Come the spring re-pot it using ericaceous compost, and once the threat of frost is over put it out in the garden in the shade, keeping it well watered at all times. Before the first frost put the plant back in the frost-free cool place as before, and start feeding with a potash-rich feed (tomato feed is as good as any). The same plant can remain a good friend for many years. Install a water butt or two to catch sweet water.
  • Protect PLANTS IN COLD FRAMES from hungry mice.
  • Garden centres and DIY sheds often sell bagged COMPOSTS AT REDUCED PRICES at this time of year, so why not stock up for the season to come?
  • Keep a LONG-HANDLED TOOL by the back door to knock snow off vulnerable plants like bamboos and fastigiate conifers.
  • PROTECT WINTER GREENS from hungry birds with netting.
  • HARDY PLANTS DELIVERED by Mail Order firms should be planted out as soon as possible, weather permitting.
  • When cutting back VIRGINIA CREEPER, remove all growth at least four feet down from the gutter.

February

  • WEEDS, especially the likes of groundsel, can continue to grow and seed even in the depths of winter. Attack such invaders with the hoe.
  • WORN PATCHES OF LAWN can be cut out and replaced with fresh turf.
  • HYDRANGEAS should be dead-headed by removing faded flowers back to the first pair of healthy green shoots.
  • Are you impatient for the first DAFFODILS to flower? Make a note to plant an early-flowering variety this autumn like ‘February Gold’. Take a photograph now. This will show you where to plant them.
  • Firm in, by foot, any PLANTS THAT HAVE BEEN LIFTED BY THE FROST.
  • Place CLOCHES over the ground to warm it up for sowing crops in March.
  • After windy spells, check the protection covering HALF-HARDY PLANTS.
  • Continue to check DAHLIA TUBERS lifted in the autumn for any signs of shrivelling or rotting. Make sure labels do not get lost.
  • IF YOU WANT TO ESTABLISH A HEDGE, it is far cheaper to plant one using bare-root stock this month in a well-prepared trench.
  • SHRUBS like sumach and dogwood produce SUCKERS from the base, sometimes some distance from the base of the parent plant. These can be dug up, roots intact, and replanted elsewhere in the garden, given to a friend or sold at the village fete.

March

  • Clear the POND of over-congested plants.
  • BUDDLEJAS (Butterfly bush) should be cut back hard to promote vigorous shoots bearing larger flowers.
  • VINES need to be cut back hard. Cut all side shoots leaving a couple of ‘eyes’ from main rods.
  • WISTERIA needs to be shaped now, cutting out all side shoots off the desired framework leaving two or three leaf shoots (nodes).
  • Move SNOWDROPS ‘in the green’ now that the flowers have faded. They do not like growing on their own, so move them in small groups.
  • Mulch NEWLY PLANTED TREES AND SHRUBS. This will help to preserve moisture in the soil for their young developing root systems.
  • EVERGREENS should be planted this month now that the coldest weather is behind us.
  • Prune APPLES and PEARS except when temperatures are below freezing.
  • HARDY FUCHSIAS can be cut back, removing all dead growth. A cold winter may mean that you have to cut the plant down to the ground. New shoots at soil level will start to appear later this month.
  • Prune ROSES as soon as possible, before too much new growth has appeared.

April

  • WEEDS - as the garden slowly stirs back to life, weeds should be hoed while still small.
  • SLUGS AND SNAILS are back for the season. Deal with them as you think appropriate.
  • Position SUPPORTS FOR HERBACEOUS PERENNIALS.
  • An application of a SLOW-RELEASE FERTILISER lightly forked in around the base of plants in the border should give them all the food they need throughout the forthcoming season.
  • It may be tempting to plant out BEDDING PLANTS (tender annuals) on sale in some shops and nurseries, but you should resist doing so until the last threat of frost is over (usually mid-May in the south of the UK and early June in the north).
  • Check TREE TIES, some may be too loose and others too tight.
  • A wild and sunny part of the garden can entertain HORSERADISH. Once established it is difficult to get rid of because of its very deep roots.
  • Prune back FORSYTHIA now that the flowers have faded. THE GENERAL RULE FOR ALL FLOWERING SHRUBS is to cut them back soon after they have finished flowering.
  • Leave DAFFODILS die back on their own – cutting off dead leaves merely weakens the bulbs. Never tie them into knots.
  • Hang up yellow ‘STICKY TRAPS’ in the greenhouse to trap APHIDS.

May

  • SOFTWOOD CUTTINGS of many shrubs can be taken this month from new shoots.
  • Tie in new shoots of CLIMBERS with soft string.
  • SOW BIENNIALS such as foxglove and sweet William.
  • Plant out DAHLIA tubers in holes enriched with well-rotted compost and a sprinkling of a slow-release fertiliser.
  • Towards the end of the month you can start sowing the first of many catch crops of RADISH AND LETTUCE.
  • Finish planting CONTAINERISED PLANTS to get them established for the summer.
  • Earth up MAIN CROP POTATOES and protect them from late frosts.
  • SPRING BULBS can be mown off lawns using a rotary mower. The general rule is that the remaining foliage of spring bulbs can be cut six weeks after the flowers have faded.
  • Continue to remove side shoots on TOMATOES by pinching them out with your thumb nail. These shoots form between the main stem and the leaves.
  • PEONIES are one of the delights in the garden this month. However, once the flowers have faded the foliage becomes unattractive in most cases. Plant nearby, therefore, other herbaceous perennials or annuals to hide these decaying remains.

June

  • In dry spells, newly planted ROSES will reward you if they are watered and fed. Expect only one or two flowers this year.
  • VEGETABLES could do with a good feed as well, now that they are in full swing.
  • OUTDOOR VARIETIES OF TOMATO such as ‘Aquadulce’ and ‘Moneymaker’ can be planted out now and kept well watered and fed until fully established.
  • SWEET CORN AND AUBERGINE (‘egg plant’) can also be planted out in a protected, sunny part of the garden.
  • Dead-head ROSES as the flowers fade. Also remove flower buds that have rotted and turned brown due to wet weather.
  • In order to reduce excessive foliage on VINES, pinch out lateral shoots, leaving two leaves beyond each flower truss.
  • TULIP bulbs can be lifted to give way for summer bedding if space is limited.
  • DANDELIONS AND OTHER DEEP-ROOTED WEEDS can be sprayed with a glyphosate-based weed-killer. Boiling water from a kettle, poured slowly onto the crown of each weed, can also prove effective.
  • SWEET PEAS must be kept well watered during dry spells. They also like to be fed regularly.
  • Tuck straw or strawberry mats under ripening STRAWBERRIES to keep them off the soil and to reduce slug damage.

July

  • Sow EVERLASTING SPINACH, a wonderful crop that can even be harvested during the winter if conditions are mild.
  • Tie in shoots on climbing ROSES while they are soft and supple.
  • Continue to dead-head ANNUALS in order to prolong their flowering season.
  • In hot weather water can be poured over the GREENHOUSE floor to increase humidity and to deter spider mite.
  • Keep the base of YOUNG HEDGES weed free to prevent die-back through lack of light.
  • Cut back DELPHINIUMS once they have finished flowering and give them a generous ‘thank you’ liquid feed.
  • Water all PLANTS GROWING IN CONTAINERS every day, even if it rains.
  • NERINE BOWDENII LILIES grown outside like to be baked in the sun but will also appreciate a water during dry spells to improve their October/November display of ice cream-pink flowers.
  • Compacted areas of LAWN can be aerated by stabbing the turf at regular intervals.
  • As you continue to dead-head, keep one or two seed capsules of ripe seed for your own use.

August

  • PREPARED HYACINTHS grown in a drained bowl and kept watered in a dark, cool place until the shoots are about 1” (2.5cm) tall, can be out for Christmas if planted this month.
  • Cut out all new growth on WISTERIA back to six leaves of the older wood.
  • ‘PAPERWHITE DAFFODILS’ will flower six weeks after being planted. They do well in gravel and water, with a lump of charcoal at the bottom to keep the water sweet.
  • Remove diseased GRAPES if they are not to infect the rest of the bunch.
  • PLANTAINS look very unsightly on a lawn. Large infestations need to be treated with a selective weed-killer, although individual plants can be levered out with a special pronged tool.
  • Cut back exhausted perennial HERBS and you will soon be rewarded with fresh young growth.
  • Take cuttings of ZONAL PELARGONIUMS (tender geraniums).
  • You may need to prop up branches of PLUMS AND DAMSONS if they are over-laden with fruit.
  • Keep cutting SWEET PEAS regularly. If allowed to form seed they will stop flowering.
  • Gaps in the vegetable garden can be sown with RADISH and LETTUCE as catch crops.

September

  • HERBACEOUS PERENNIALS - while the soil is still relatively warm, this is the month in which to divide or lift herbaceous perennials. Soak plants that have been moved to a new position.
  • This is the best month for SOWING OR TURFING A NEW LAWN because this is normally a wet month, resulting in the formation of new roots before the cold weather sets in.
  • INDOOR PLANTS can be re-potted this month. As the weather cools, so should you reduce watering.
  • Have you got a BIRD TABLE? Our feathered friends will love you for a regular food supply during the lean months to come.
  • ORNAMENTAL SHRUBS can be cut back if they are cramping the style of their neighbours. Always cut back shoots to older wood.
  • GLADIOLI are best grown in large drifts (like most bulbs). Now that they have faded, they should be lifted and dried in a cool, airy place before being stored over winter wrapped in newspaper.
  • Keep dead-heading DAHLIAS to prolong their flowering period.
  • Plant up WINDOW BOXES with spring bulbs.
  • Cut back the yellowed foliage of ASPARAGUS and give them a good, rich mulch of manure.
  • Lift begonia tubers, dry them off and store over winter.

October

  • TREES AND SHRUBS - now that the sap is on the retreat, this is the time to shape ornamental trees and shrubs. Always cut back to older wood. Never cut a shoot/branch half way as this will result in messy re-growth and spoil the shape of the plant.
  • BROAD BEANS – varieties of Broad Bean such as ‘Aquadulce’ can be sown outside now. Protect with a cloche against severe weather.
  • LILIES IN FLOWER – Make a note to plant Nerine bowdenii in late summer next year. This hardy lily with ice cream-pink flowers grows well in average soil at the base of a sunny wall.
  • LAVENDER - leave the dead flowers to provide winter food for bullfinches and other birds.
  • Dead-head ROSE BUSHES and reduce top growth by about one half to reduce wind rock.
  • Bring WOODEN GARDEN FURNITURE into the dry.
  • If you do not have a very large garden, FALLEN LEAVES can be collected and composted in punctured dustbin liners. They must be wet before the bags are closed.
  • The VEGETABLE GARDEN can be cleared up this month and left rough dug.
  • Dig up a few fat roots of MINT. Lay them flat in a pot and cover with an inch or so of compost. Place the pot on a sunny windowsill. This will result in a fresh crop throughout the winter.
  • Cut back HERBACEOUS PERENNIALS that have finished flowering, except those with ornamental seed heads.

November

  • FALLEN LEAVES should be composted. If you have too many, tuck them under established shrubs to a depth of 4”(10mm) as a mulch. Rake up leaves sitting on turf – if left too long they could kill the grass by suffocation.
  • CONTAINERISED HOSTAS will need potting on if they have become congested. Because they grow into such a thick mass within a pot, I find it easier to divide them by sawing them into four sections with an ordinary carpenters saw.
  • DAHLIA tubers can be lifted once the top growth has been blackened by frost. Store them in a dry, cool place.
  • Do not delay planting SPRING BULBS any longer – most get off to a better start if planted last month. This is the best month, however, for planting TULIPS.
  • WORM CASTS can be swept off the lawn with a besom on a dry day.
  • The GREENHOUSE can be lined with polythene sheeting or bubbly paper to conserve heat.
  • Divide large clumps of MICHAELMAS DAISIES (hardy asters) once they have finished flowering.
  • Burn all leaves of roses suffering from BLACKSPOT.
  • PARSNIPS can be left in the ground and harvested at will.
  • Keep a couple of rubber balls floating in concrete-lined PONDS to reduce the risk of cracking of the superstructure in freezing weather.

December

  • The best CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS can be made from plants in the garden. Make wreaths and garlands by wiring together fir cones and holly sprigs.
  • Stuck for ideas for CHRISTMAS PRESENTS? A tree or shrub will give the recipient many years of joy, for the same cost as a bottle of champagne which is soon forgotten.
  • Young CONIFERS can be protected from icy winter winds by wrapping them in hessian.
  • RHUBARB can be forced under the greenhouse staging.
  • Check stored FRUIT for signs of attack from mice as well as mould.
  • Try to keep your INDIAN AZAKEAS in a cool place, anyway during the dark hours. This will prolong their flowering period.
  • WATER INDOOR PLANTS SPARINGLY – over-watering accounts for the majority of plant fatalities.
  • Only water tender cyclamen once the leaves start to droop. This is another plant that likes to be kept in the cool, out of direct sunlight.
  • Fill a vase with deliciously scented winter-flowering honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) for something special over the Christmas period.
  • Make sure that the compost in which your forced hyacinths are growing never dries out.