At long last winter has relaxed its icy grip, for a few days at least! Temperatures plunged to -10C in this part of Hertfordshire and have been much lower in other parts of Britain, on what is the coldest December on record. I hope that your greenhouse heater didn’t break down at a critical time. Nothing much has happened in the garden – the slippery conditions stopped me from even going down to the greenhouse but most of the plants inside were also covered in horticultural fleece as an extra layer of insulation: I hope that this technique works as well as it did in 2009!
The main focus of activity has been the building work in the garden.(see image) After great deliberation we have decided to replace the garage – the old one has been in a bad state for several years, with bowing walls and poor foundations, it was rapidly heading towards collapse! Siting the back wall next to the vegetable garden will give me added vertical growing space and shelter and is probably as close as I will get to my long term dream of a walled vegetable garden. The boundary wall along one side of the garden has been replaced too and it is really exciting to think that I can at last create the border that I have wanted for years.
Freezing conditions weather prevented me from planting two large bags of ‘bargain’daffodils which I bought, half price at the end of November. I’ll plant them as soon as possible, now that the snow has gone. Knowing daffodils, there will still have a lovely display in spring, even though they will flower a little late.
Providing there is no frost and snow, January (and February) is a good time to prune Wisteria. A friend of mine Ady Dayman, who is a gardening presenter on BBC Radio Leicester’s Down to Earth, calls it the ‘two and six’ plant, the easiest way to remember that side shoots should be cut back to (five or) six buds in late July and the same shoots pruned back further to two (to three) buds in late winter to encourage flowering and keep growth under control.
It is also time to protect peaches, nectarines and almonds from peach leaf curl by covering them with polythene to keep the plant dry, from January until mid May, as spores are spread by the rain. Infected leaves develop red coloured pustules and often fall prematurely, weakening the plant. Make a frame covered with clear plastic around the plant, leaving a 30cm gap at the base for ventilation and to allow access for pollinating insects. It can also be controlled by spraying with copper based fungicide just before leaf fall and again in late January and two weeks later, in early February. If your plants become affected, remove any pustule covered leaves and those that are shed and feed the plant with liquid seaweed; it will be just the tonic it needs to help produce a second flush of leaves.
Happy New Year! Matt.