I am always glad when we get to the shortest day – December 21 – each year because, believe it or not, we gain a few more minutes of daylight in the afternoon. The best thing about Christmas night is that it is three minutes lighter in the evening.
The cold weather is a pain. We had sub-zero temperatures for several days and you are asking me whether you should dig out geraniums and fuchsias from the garden?
If you live in Portsmouth and these two are growing in borders against the house, they may pull through the winter, but if you live 'over the hill' it might be best to dig out all geraniums and the fuchsias which are not hardy varieties. If you live at Waterlooville you've probably done this. We have.
Trouble is the greenhouse will then be full of dead-looking plants all through the winter and over-wintering plants take up much valuable space. In a few weeks we will need all the space we can find to sow seeds.
Can we over-winter these plants without taking up too much space? Oh dear, this article looks a little dull, but three of you loyal readers have asked me about this recently.
The best plan is to dig out tender fuchsias or knock them out of their pots once the frost has gone and shake off all the soil. They should now be cut back hard reducing the length of every side shoot to three leaf joints: a bit drastic but it ensures they'll survive. Each plant is now labelled and put into deep boxes with the roots covered in dry potting compost or peat. Don't bury the stems; little green shoots will appear on them in a few weeks. Keep the compost almost dry all winter in a frost-free greenhouse.
By using bubbled polythene sheeting inside a greenhouse fixed to the glazing bars, warmth can be conserved and by using the same material to form a vertical screen it is possible to just heat part of the greenhouse.
Pelargonium zonale geraniums are stored in exactly the same way and by cutting them back hard and removing every leaf, space is saved and you won't be looking at a greenhouse full of dead, mouldy and wilting leaves all winter. Seal the cuts on the stems by dusting them with sulphur powder. This prevents stem rot.
To finish on a brighter note, mahonia japonica is in full bloom. What a beautiful sight, but those leaves are really prickly.
As you know, I am over 30 – well nearly. The Leyland hedges on both sides of our front garden have been reduced from 12 feet to eight feet in height as I have decided I must not go up into the sky to cut them.
This job cost a bit but all the prunings were taken away and shredded. I have saved up for a new hedgecutter with a telescopic feature and a blade which can be angled to cut any shape. I can now trim the hedge standing on the ground. We're pleased about this and I expect our neighbours are delighted.
THIS WEEK'S TOP TIP
Keep a gardening diary in 2018. You needn’t buy a new one, simply use an old diary and make important notes such as when the first snowdrops appear and when the first crocus opens.
Also, make a note when you spray plants to control pests or diseases or when a particularly awful disease, such as potato blight, strikes. Do this and it will prevent problems in future years.
You will find this very interesting when you read these notes in future years.