Rosie shares her gardening tips and know-how.
Wildlife. There’s so much to be done at this time of year, with Christmas shopping and writing cards keeping us busy. But let’s try not to forget to keep our birdfeeders topped up and bird baths clean and filled with fresh water. Also, bird boxes need to be cleaned out before the end of January. To start with, remove the old nests and any unhatched eggs.
It is quite normal for some birds to lay extra eggs, expecting that a few may not hatch, so there is no need to be concerned. After removing the debris, wash the inside of the box with boiling water and a little washing-up liquid. Rinse well and dry thoroughly before closing the lid and putting the box back in place. Apparently, some birds also use nesting boxes to roost during the cold winter months, so adding a little clean straw would not go amiss.
Weeding and tidying. The leaves on the iris, mombretia, peony and other similar plants should have turned brown by now and so are ready to be cut off. The peony leaves can be cut right down but it is best to avoid cutting the mombretia leaves. Instead, just pull them gently but firmly. They should come away easily once they’ve died back. Pull the dead iris leaves in the same way but cut any that are still green or yellow to about five or six inches. With plants that have bulbs or tubers, the general principle is these need to be fed by the goodness they receive from the leaves while they’re still green. Leave grasses uncut as they provide places for insects to hibernate.
Compost. Continue to apply mulch, well-rotted manure or garden compost to your flower beds, surrounding the plants but not covering them.
Indoors. Reduce the amount of water you give to your indoor plants and, if possible, place them on a sunny windowsill to make the most of the shorter daylight hours. Hyacinths and cyclamens are flowering now and will brighten up your home with their rich colours and gorgeous perfume. For Christmas decorations, you can use holly, ivy, crab apples and pine cones.
Pruning. Prune your acer before mid December and outdoor grapevines before Christmas. You can prune quince branches by cutting about a quarter off.