Professional Gardener - Get ready for the cold, think about security

With another harsh winter predicted, it pays to have tools and equipment prepared, says Sally Drury.

Preparing for the cold

So far, November has been a month of mild weather, sunny spells and unexpectedly high temperatures in many parts of the country. But it cannot last. According to some forecasters, it will be colder than average in December and January, with heavy snowfalls possible in both months.

Make sure the fleece sheets are handy. Newly-planted trees and shrubs - especially conifers and less hardy subjects - will need fleece protection from severe cold and drying winds.

Make sure the shovels and snow brushes are handy. Shovels should be placed strategically where it is necessary to maintain access - the conservatories, glasshouses, boiler sheds and workshop area, especially where snow ploughs or blowers and grit spreaders are stored.

Check all vehicles are winter-ready and that all outdoor workers have appropriate winter clothing.

Long dark nights

At this time of a year, when it is dark for 16 hours out of every 24, security can be an issue for many gardens. Machinery, tools, statuary and plants are among the most popular items targeted by thieves.

Regularly check the integrity of boundary walls, fences, hedges and gates. Test security lights and alarms around the machinery shed and workshop areas. Double-check sheds, conservatories and greenhouses are locked every night. Quad bikes are a particular favourite for thieves because they can be driven away quickly over rough ground and have a high resale value. Extra security features such as floor clamps and identification marking should be considered for such items.

The tidy-up continues

Remove heavy accumulations of leaves from lawns and flowerbeds. Use the leaves for composting or mulching shrub beds. Finish tidying herbaceous borders, cutting dead or dying stems. Carry out autumn pruning of roses. To thin overcrowded shrubberies, consider lifting and transplanting dormant shrubs to other areas. Cultivate any free ground in borders and vegetable gardens.

Inspect drainage pipes and grilles. Remove fallen leaves and debris from grilles and guttering to ensure rainfall and melting snow escapes quickly.

Water features

Remove old leaves and thin out oxygenating plants.

Overhaul pumping equipment for fountains and waterfalls.

Hedges

Inspect deciduous hedges. With few or no leaves, it is now easier to see into the hedge, making it much easier to do any pruning work to keep the hedge within bounds. Give a last trim to other deciduous hedges if necessary and clean out their bases.

In the workshop

Prepare for any in-house machinery servicing by checking stock of filters and oils or make arrangements for the local dealer to carry out maintenance during December or early January.

Tools also need maintenance. Check, clean, sharpen and grease as appropriate, noting those that will soon be in need of replacement.

Lawns

The grass continues to need mowing, the unusually mild weather fuelling growth. Aerate when conditions are suitable and consider the application of an autumn fertiliser.

Rodents

Consider laying bait boxes for rodent control.


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