Resist the urge to get set for spring already

Wall baskets
Wall baskets

BRIAN KIDD: From the mud and rotting foliage, beauty will shoot again

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Everyone seems to want to get on with the planting ready for spring, but do hold on until you have a frost which kills off the summer bedding plants before you rush out there trying to clear everything away.

Remember, winter is a bit shorter all the time you can see a few flowers and lots of foliage furnishing the garden.

If you would like to make a start, there’s nothing wrong in going out to buy some plants, then looking after them in a nice light place so that they continue to grow.

If you do this, you can select the colours you would like to see, so forget all about everything being ‘mixed’.

Hanging baskets are often a failure during the winter, as it’s far too exposed up in the air with cold winds every few days. So take them down once they have stopped blooming, shake out the old compost and put it on to a border or into the compost heap. Clean the baskets up and put them away until next May.

To enhance a wall however, because of the protection it affords, flat-backed wall baskets are fine. A very good display may be achieved if they are fixed so that one is about two feet below the other.

While it may not be possible to achieve a cascade of flowers similar to that enjoyed during the summer, it can still look good.

The compost for plant containers is quite important. Garden soil on its own is useless – we need a good compost and the John Innes number three is the strongest and a lot less likely to dry out for that matter.

If you had summer plants in containers, it’s a good idea at this time of year to take out the top half of the compost and replace it with fresh compost. This not only sustains the plants but it gives you the opportunity to take out any vine weevil grubs which may be devouring the roots of the old flowers.

Tubs, troughs and pots are best emptied completely once each year and the best time to do this is during the early summer when the summer plants are being planted.

It is important to remember to place little pieces of broken earthenware flower pots over the holes in the base of each container and to use little feet underneath each pot so that excess water can escape.

The gap between the base of the pots and the surface upon which they are situated will also prevent earthworms entering the pot.

Many a good display is ruined if worms wriggle into the compost.