Author Archives: Sarah Talbot

February Jobs in the Garden

I’m writing this on 5th February, the sky is bright blue and cloudless and the garden looks quite beautiful; but the frost is still sparkling on the ground and dusting the tops of the shrubs, so don’t be beguiled into thinking winter is past, just yet.

Work in a February garden is very much dictated by temperature, so if it’s bitterly cold and the ground is frozen, many of these jobs should be postponed.

  1. Deciduous grasses will be looking messy, so remove the old stems if you haven’t already, as new shoots will soon be appearing.


  1. If we do have snow, knock it off evergreen shrubs and hedges to prevent the weight damaging the plants.


  1. Later in the month, prune summer flowering Clematis (Group 3), cut stems back hard, to healthy buds about 30cm above the base.


  1. If you need to move deciduous shrubs or trees (small ones), now is the time to do it, while they’re dormant.


  1. Winter prune apples, blackcurrants and autumn fruiting raspberries.


  1. Divide congested clumps of herbaceous perennials and grasses, although some respond better if divided in the autumn, so it’s advisable to research specific plants as necessary.


  1. Snowdrops can be divided after flowering; they respond very well to this. For new stock always buy them ‘in the green’ – this just means buy them as small plants. Success with planting snowdrop bulbs is always quite limited as many of them seem to fail.


  1. Prune wisteria as soon as possible, if you haven’t already done it.


  1. Feed fruit trees and bushes with sulphate of potash fertiliser sprinkled around the base.


  1. Keep bird feeders filled and ensure the water is fresh and not frozen. Birds get thirsty and my blackbirds still love having a bath – even in this freezing weather!

January Jobs in the Garden

New Year good wishes and happy gardening to everyone!

Even now, the days are feeling that tiny bit longer and I’ve been delighted to see the long-tailed tits are still visiting and enjoying the fat-balls, as well as finding bugs and insects amongst the shrubs. Given a chance nature will provide it’s own, safe pest control without the use of chemicals.

1. Recycle your Christmas tree by shredding it for mulch.

2. Keep bird feeders clean and filled, melt any iced–up drinking water for them.

3. Decide on good positions for nesting boxes and get them in place before they start nesting.

4. If wind damaged fences need repairing and you need someone to do it for you, organise it now or you may have a long wait before they can fit you in.

5. The same applies to servicing garden machinery, especially mowers – get them booked in asap.

6. Service pond filters and pumps.

7. Plant bare-root roses, hedging and trees, provided the ground isn’t frozen.

8. Hellebores are budding up nicely, so remove any old or damaged leaves so you will be able to see the flowers more easily, it also helps reduce the spread of leaf spot.

9. Cut down tatty or collapsed perennials and grasses and compost them.

10. Winter prune apples and pears.

11. Tie in climbers and wall shrubs as necessary.

December Jobs in the Garden

The last few days of November saw a sudden drop in temperature, with early morning frosts lasting much of the day, but bright blue December skies and plenty of sunshine are giving a wonderful sparkle to grasses and seed heads.

1. Remember the birds, they’re feeling the winter chill and really do need our help. Keep feeders full and hang them in safe places – under tree canopies or near shrubs and other cover, to protect them from predators.

2. Keep bird baths and water containers clean and provide fresh water, especially in freezing conditions.

3. If you have box blight in the garden fungicide treatments will have little effect through the winter, but do remove the fallen, diseased leaves asap. A good mulch will help reduce water splash, which is one of the main methods by which the diseases spreads.

4. Keep planting spring bulbs if the ground isn’t frozen.

5. Some clearing of fallen leaves amongst the borders may be needed, but be careful you don’t disturb hibernating frogs and toads.

6. Store hoses and watering equipment in frost free places.

7. Stand your Christmas tree in a bucket of water until it’s time to bring it inside, it will still take up water even without roots.

8. Enjoy looking through gardening magazines and planning for the spring; look at how you could introduce more plants which are good for pollinators, especially bees.

November Jobs in the Garden

Days are shortening and temperatures are beginning to drop, but there’s still plenty to do in the garden.

1. Plant tulips, at least twice their depth or more and lots of them! A few recommended ones are Ballerina, Mistress, Don Quichotte, Queen of Night, Red Riding Hood.

Allium Purple Sensation is a good early flower, but position where the leaves will be hidden, as they always turn yellow before the flower is over.

2. Remove and compost annual climbers.

3. Check bonfires carefully before lighting – you may be lucky enough to have a resident hedgehog or other wildlife.

4. Remove leaves from ponds and lawns, bag up and store for leaf mould.

5. Reduce lawn mowing frequency and raise height of cut.

6. Feed birds and ensure fresh, clean water.

7. Prune dormant currants and gooseberries – don’t prune cherries, apricots or nectarines, they should be summer pruned.

8. Plant bare-root hedging, roses trees and shrubs before frost sets in, though bare-root hedging can be done throughout the winter until late February/early March, depending on the temperature.

9. Clean greenhouses.

October Jobs in the Garden

Late summer perennials are still giving a good show and Penstemons will continue to flower into December, but only if dead-headed.

1. Begin cutting back any spent and tatty perennials, but leave ornamental grasses and seed heads for the birds.

2. Prune climbing roses.

3. Harvest apples and pears and collect ripe seed from perennials.

4. Move tender plants back into conservatories and greenhouses for
the winter.

5. Last opportunity to trim hedges.

6. Reduce mowing and renovate lawns. Apply autumn lawn feed.

7. Plant up winter containers with mini cyclamen, winter heathers and
violas, tulips and dwarf daffodils.

8. Plant evergreen shrubs.

9. Figs – remove the large figs which haven’t ripened and leave the tiny ones to develop and ripen next year.

September Jobs in the Garden

As the nights draw in and temperatures begin to cool, the hedges are bursting with rosehips and blackberries and gardens still have plenty of late flowering perennials, that will give colour and interest into the autumn. But if you have noticeable gaps in your garden it’s worth making some notes and taking some photographs, with a view to filling them for next year.

1. Lift and divide herbaceous perennials when they finish flowering.

2. Garden centres still have some nice late-flowering perennials available, such as sedums which are especially good providers of nectar for pollinating insects.

3. Support tall, ornamental grasses if necessary.

4. Remove duckweed and then net ponds before the serious leaf-fall begins.

5. If you have summer bedding containers keep dead-heading and they will last a few more weeks.

6. Winter pots can be planted with heuchara, ivy, heather, cyclamen and lots of early and late tulips and dwarf daffodils.

7. If roses have blackspot, pick off the leaves and collect any on the ground and bin.

8. A good time to wash out all your birdfeeders, tables and bird baths.

9. Rake out thatch from lawns, aerate if compacted and start repairing damaged edges and re-seeding bare patches.

10. Ensure autumn flowering asters don’t dry out, to avoid mildew.

August Jobs in the Garden

After searing heat, heavy rain and some very windy days in July, it’s hard to know quite what to expect in August!

1. Top of the list is still dead-heading. Removing the stem as well as the actual dead flower always gives a better appearance. Be careful if doing dahlias, as it can be hard to tell which is a bud and which a spent flower. The buds are rounded – the spent flowers are cone shaped and pointed. Dead head penstemons by cutting the flowered stem back to a healthy set of leaves, this will trigger the tiny buds at the base of those leaves to flower.

Wisteria. Summer-prune all the long, whippy side-shoots back to about 5 buds, this also restricts/contains the size of the plant. Prune again in late winter, when these laterals are cut back to 2 buds.

3. Summer-prune espaliers, cordons and other wall-trained fruit trees to maintain their size and shape and allow more light to reach the plant.

4. Water containers and new plants using grey or stored water when possible.

5. Camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons are forming their flower buds for next year, keep them well watered and don’t allow them to dry out.

6. Keep ponds topped up.

7. Prune rambling roses, remove up to a third of flowered stems, tie in the rest to supports.

8. Many lavenders are nearly over, cut back flowered stems to give a neat, compact shape and to allow time for new foliage to develop before the winter.

9. Birds may still be nesting, particularly in native hedges, so avoid hedge-cutting until end of August or even better, into September.

July jobs in the garden

A little late with this month’s jobs I’m afraid, but many of them extend into August too.

There tends to be a lull around this time, between the early flowering and late flowering summer perennials, so dead-heading is probably THE most important and beneficial job you can do, to keep the garden looking vibrant and interesting.  Extremes of heat, wet and wind are keeping gardeners on their toes and greenhouse temperatures have been soaring.

  • Dead-head all flowering plants and cut back the early, hardy geraniums for a second flush.


  • Cut back lavender after flowering, not into old wood.


  • Feed roses.


  • Water regularly, all plants in containers, as wind and sun dry them out very quickly. Water any new planting, especially trees.


  • Open greenhouse doors and vents to reduce heat.


  • Keep cutting the lawn, raise the height slightly if necessary in hot, dry weather and remember grass can scorch if watered if strong sun.


  • Regular, frequent mowing will give the best results. Long gaps between mowing takes more time because the grass is longer, plus temperature and humidity build up – try putting your hands flat on the lawn on a hot day and see how much heat there is! This creates an ideal environment for diseases such as red thread. Keep blades sharp and replace when too pitted.


  • Top up ponds and bird baths. When it’s warm, algae in bird-baths builds up in a few days, so a quick clean and a re-fill of fresh water keeps the birds healthy.


  • Keep bird feeders topped up too, there are lots of hungry fledglings around as well as the adults.


  • Three will be plenty of activity in compost bins, so keep them well supplied with chopped kitchen and garden waste (not evergreen clippings or pernicious weeds) and keep on top of the weeding.

June Jobs in the Garden

Last month saw some extremes of rainfall and see-sawing temperatures, with sharp ground and air frosts, damaging new shoots.  Box was one of the most affected plants, but with warmer and more consistent weather now, new growth will soon come through.


  1. Be alert to box blight in your gardens and apply treatment.  The RHS has good information about this on their site.  Where blight is present and severe, possible alternatives to box are Japanese Holly, some types of Euonymous and Lonicera nitida.


  1. Hoeing and weeding.


  1. Once weeded, a good mulch on the borders will discourage new weed growth and reduce water loss from the soil. Water if necessary before spreading mulch.


  1. Summer bedding plants in containers and hanging baskets can be put out – they will dry out faster than plants in the ground and need regular watering.


  1. Plants are growing fast now, ensure stakes are in place for tall-growing or floppy plants.


  1. Clean bird baths and keep full with fresh water.


  1. Respect nesting birds in hedges and don’t disturb with hedge cutters.


  1. Cut lawns weekly. It may be necessary to raise the height of the cut in drought conditions.

May Jobs in the Garden

So far, it’s been a warm, dry spring but with a frosty sting in the tail towards the end of April and already the soil is very dry, so watch out for drooping plants, particularly if not yet established.

  1.  Another couple of weeks or so and it will be safe to re-do your pots for the summer.  Fresh compost is  advisable as you may already have vine weevil in your pots – the grubs munch through the  roots leaving just a ‘top-knot’ of foliage.  Ready mixed, all-purpose container compost, depending on the manufacturer, is often very fibrous and doesn’t always drain well, so don’t be afraid to mix your own using a combination of soil-based John Innes, good quality multi-purpose container mix, slow release fertiliser, plus grit for any plants needing sharp drainage.
  2.   Sharp hoes, plus hand-weeding.
  3. Roses, especially ramblers will be growing fast, keep tying them in to avoid damage in windy  conditions.
  4. New Lawns. Autumn is the ideal time to lay new lawns, but it can be done now provided the new turf is kept well-watered.  Cut once the height reaches about 5cms (2”), keep the blade setting high.
  5. Keep an eye on the temperature in your greenhouses and ventilate on warm days.
  6.   Birds are nesting so avoid serious hedge cutting if possible and just trim off the tall, untidy bits.  Always, always check for nests before carrying out any hedge work.
  7. Holly trees. Don’t be concerned if they are dropping lots of leaves as all trees, even evergreens, shed old leaves.
  8. Keep feeding the birds in your garden; the more you attract them the more aphids and other pests they will eat.

There are many beneficial insects and creatures in your garden, which will thrive if you don’t use chemical weed sprays, pesticides and other herbicides.  It takes time to achieve an effective balance, but if you persevere the birds and desirable insects will do your pest control for you, plus you have the pleasure of seeing them – and at the same time, knowing you’re not poisoning them.  Nematodes are also a good biological pest control and there is plentiful information about them online.