Want to make winter shorter? Then don’t start the big clear-up yet, says Brian Kidd

Wall baskets can look good in winter, but not as stunning as in summer.

Wall baskets can look good in winter, but not as stunning as in summer.

Polyanthus: dig them up when they finish blooming.

BRIAN KIDD: on how to save polyanthus and potted roses

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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 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. I say this every year!

But if you would like to make a start, there’s nothing wrong with buying some plants and looking after them in a nice light place so they continue to grow.

If you do this, you can select the colours you want, so forget about everything being ‘mixed’.

Hanging baskets are often a failure during the winter. 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 them up and put them away until next May. Use the upturned baskets to cover tulip bulbs in the rock garden.

To enhance a wall however, because of the protection a wall gives, flat-backed wall baskets are fine and an excellent display can be achieved if they are fixed so 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 important.

Garden soil on its own is useless, we need a good compost and John Innes No3 is the strongest and a lot less likely to dry out – or, for that matter, become too wet.

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.

This not only sustains the plants but also gives you the chance to take out any vine weevil grubs which may be devouring roots of the old flowers.

Tubs, troughs and pots are best emptied completely so pieces of broken flowerpot can be placed over the holes in the bottom to let excess water escape.

After emptying them, half -fill them with the old compost, then top up with the new. Next summer we shall have to renew the compost with fresh John Innes.

Remember to put all containers on little feet so earthworms can’t get into the compost. Why? Worms in containers eat all the organic matter (like peat) and leave behind nothing but silt.

TIP OF THE WEEK

If your grape hyacinths (muscari) have become small, don’t despise them.

Now is the time to dig them all out.

Spread the bulbs out on a large piece of carpet and find the large ones.

Plant these again in a new place scattering on Vitax Q4 fertiliser where they are to be planted.

Rake it in and replant the bulbs and the flowers will be large next spring.

Take the tiny ones to the recycling centre or plant them in a ‘wild area’ but not in the countryside.

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