Top Gardening Tips

Frances MacDonald | 13 October 2023
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Our Garden Tour Manager, Frances MacDonald from The Small Town Garden, has some fantastic garden tips to prepare your garden for the winter. Frances also has some handy tips for those who don’t have a garden and who want to make their home a little greener!

Top garden tips for winter

  • Clearing leaves will keep us warm over the next couple of months! If you have space, make a compost container especially for them out of chicken wire.  Alternatively collect smaller leaves (beech are particularly good) and fill a plastic sack, tie the top, make some holes and leave contents to rot down over the winter.  Leaf mound is wonderful for pots or for the borders.
  • There is still time to buy bulbs or order them online  Plant daffodils immediately but keep tulip bulbs in a dry, cool place for planting in November or December. Try other species - Camassia, Fritillaria, Muscari or Iris reticulata. There are bulbs for all garden situations and most are perennial so you will have them for years.  They can be planted in the garden or in containers so you can grow some even if you are in an apartment.  Don't be parsimonious when planting containers with bulbs - plant them close together for a wonderful spring display.
  • Fill your window boxes with Cyclamen or Polyanthus to keep some colour.  
  • Continue cutting your lawn until the growth slows down but it is a good idea to raise the blade levels on your mower.  
  • Rake the leaves off your lawn to avoid it becoming yellow however running the mower over with the blades set high works if you have a large area of grass.
  • Clear old debris and weeds from your shrub and flower borders but avoid cutting back herbaceous perennials with good seed heads as the birds will enjoy the feast!
  • Rambling roses, which have ceased to flower, can be pruned now.  Replace the old framework where necessary with the new shoots produced this year then 'spur' prune along the framework. 
  • Check the stakes and ties on trees to protect them against the autumn winds.
  • Discard Tulips from pots that have finished flowering - they won't do so well the second year. 
  • If you haven't done so already, give your hedges their final trim and then put away your shears until the spring.  Mulch new hedges with grass clippings. 
  • Prepare your greenhouse for the winter, clear out tomatoes, clean well and insulate with bubble wrap if you live in  a frosty area. 
  • Enjoy the wonderful colours and berries of autumn, still lots of interest from grasses and late flowering perennials 
  • Follow your favourite gardens on Facebook or Instagram for inspiration!

How to get garden inspiration ideas

Best plants to keep indoors

Although some people are lucky to have gardens during these times - for many an apartment without green space is home but that doesn't mean you can't have something green and growing in your surroundings. We lack good light in our house so my concentration is on the outside. Any plants that I grow indoors have to thrive on neglect! House plants can be bought not only from Garden Centres but look out for them in your local supermarket.  Here are some easier ones to start with: 

Aspidistra: This was a plant found in pubs when smoking was allowed; it is one of the hardiest of indoor plants. No flowers but wonderful foliage and practically indestructible. 

Peace Lily: Most indoor plants rely on foliage for their beauty but this one also produces white lily like flowers sporadically throughout the year. 

Spider Plant: With its lovely variegated leaves, this is one of the most popular of houseplants so called because the main plant produces long stems which hang down and produce miniature plants. Ideal for a mantelpiece or shelf. 

Christmas Cactus: This succulent plant gets its common name for the numerous flowers that it produces around Christmas time. Coming from a desert location, it prefers a dry, gravelly compost mix and will tolerate a lack of water. It enjoys spending summer outside in a sunny spot but this is not essential.

Mother-in-Law's Tongue: Erect, strap-like variegated leaves make this a striking plant; it's neat habit makes it a good choice for a small space. 

Parlor Palm: For a larger more exotic indoor plant, choose one of the palms, if you have a good space for its elegant foliage. 

Best Care for indoor plants:

  • Most indoor plants are killed by overwatering, allow a plant to dry out almost completely before watering, then give it a good soaking allowing it to drain in the sink overnight before placing it back in its position.
  • Keep at an even temperature. If plants are on a window sill, don't close the curtain in front of them at night. 
  • Repot in a good compost in the spring. Mulch with decorative pebbles and co-ordinate your containers. 
  • Sometimes it works best to group your plants together. 
  • All of those mentioned will tolerate lower light levels.  
  • Feed during the growing season at least every two weeks with indoor plant food.  And always feed when the plant is moist. 
  • Refrain from feeding and cut back on watering during the winter. 

Frances has moved from a large 2.5 acre garden, The Bay Garden to a smaller one in town – The Small Town Garden and you can follow their progress on Facebook. If you have any gardening queries, contact Frances by emailing [email protected]

Also, you can check out our Garden holidays for upcoming trips to world-famous gardens.

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