Late winter catch-up
I have to confess that I am, for the most part, a fair-weather gardener. Much as I wish I were one of those hardy types that can chuck on a jumper or two and gleefully bound into the garden in near-Arctic conditions to dig the veg patch, I am not. I have never found it remotely fun to trudge around in rain or bone-chilling winds, so it’s only with the greatest reluctance that I will drag myself out at this time of year to do anything beyond chucking peelings in the compost bin!
But some things need to be done, whether I like it or not, and this morning saw me venturing out for the first time this season to knock off one or two jobs that I can ignore no longer.
Top of my list was re-potting my tree lilies. Every year at about this time, i.e. before they start into active growth, I like to dig up my tree lily bulbs, replace about a third of the compost in the pot with fresh multipurpose, add some food (this year I’ve put in a handful or two of Vitax Q4) then re-plant them nice and deep having removed the old stems from last year. I usually find one or two self-propagated offspring kicking around by the main bulbs, so I can pot those up separately if I choose.
Strictly speaking, this probably isn’t a necessary annual task, but I like to do it as it gives me a chance to assess the condition of the bulbs and get a head-start in the war on pests: they’re not prone to much, but if I spot any hibernating lily beetles, snails or vine weevil grubs I can dispose of them before they’re a problem.
Next, I moved on to pruning my clematis. I don’t have many – just 6, in fact – but they all require cutting down to about 45cm (18in) at this time, preferably before the new buds start to burst, which can happen remarkably early in some years. They also need a feed and a mulch, but I’ll have to get down the garden centre for some well-rotted horse manure before I can do that.
On to the roses, of which I have only a handful, but they all need pruning back whilst still dormant so should really be done by mid-February around here. I have to admit that I don’t follow any particular rules for this: I just remove anything dead or dying, cut weak growth back hard and take a little off the stronger stems. I’ll also remove anything that’s getting in the way or taking too much space from a neighbour, but that’s about it. Then chuck on some muck (which I’ll have to get) and the job’s a good ‘un.
I also cut down some herbaceous plant stems that were left on from last year, but only those plants that I know are reliably hardy here; anything slightly dodgy I like to leave with its previous season’s top growth on for protection until early spring.
And that was pretty much it. An hour or so of mildly shivery work and my to-do list is now a lot shorter than it was. Hurrah!
Time for a cuppa…