Winter brings its own to-do list

Compost heap for autumn (s)
Compost heap for autumn (s)

Shorter, colder days have an instant effect on gardening activities, whether it’s your profession or hobby.

However, others emerge to take their place. This period more than any other spells déjà vu for me.

Gone with summer is the weekly commitment to grass cutting, feeding and watering of outdoor plants, the constant check for pests and diseases and everything else the main growing season brings.

But don’t for one moment think that gardening can be put on hold. Digging, pruning, mulching, planting, turfing and all manner of repairs lie in wait.

If you’re lucky enough to have a greenhouse, poly-tunnel or shed, sanity and survival can be achieved by dividing activities between outdoors and under cover.

Traditionally, this is seen as an opportunity to clean, sharpen and oil tools. Also to maintain the machines and store them for winter as in days of yore.

But gardening activities have changed with the climate. My mower is serviced but remains mobile because in recent winters the grass has refused to rest completely. It enhances the whole garden if you give a ragged lawn the once-over with raised cutting blades in January.

Nor do the forks, spades, long-handled pruners, saws, trowels, et al have any chance of oil-covered rest – there are too many pressing jobs outside. And when the cold becomes too much, there are always plant pots and trays to wash and clean, along with the greenhouse, thus ensuring a hygienic start to spring.

Thankfully, hot water is on tap now, a far cry from the domestic bath of icy substance this apprentice once washed clay and plastic pots in.

Warmer memories of youthful winter days relate to the joy of steam sterilising garden loam, which had been stacked for months, and making batches of John Innes compost.

Better still, the greenhouses filled with late chrysanths, disbudded to encourage huge blooms. Then, in the inner sanctum of a large, heated greenhouse, invaluable winter flowering pot plants that could surely raise anyone’s spirits.

This is why I aim to be surrounded by a diversity of potted plants in the conservatory each year as the festivities approach. I’ve known them all so well for so long that they’re like old friends.

There’s no need for Dr Who’s Tardis when winter cherry (solanum capsicastrum), cyclamen, azalea indicum, poinsettia (euphorbia pulcherrima), primula obconica, Christmas cactus (zygocactus truncatus), hippeastrum, narcissus Paper White and hyacinth Delft Blue can transport you back in time just as effectively!