Professional Gardener - Winter work, site plans and key tasks

With cold weather kicking in, now is the time to start your proper winter work, Sally Drury advises.

It has finally arrived - the cold weather. Now, perhaps, the extension growth will cease and we can get down to proper winter work.

There may be no shortage of outdoor tasks to keep the body warm. Start by dealing with the results of recent gales.

Then there is the digging to be done in the kitchen garden and the cleared areas of herbaceous borders, followed by erecting and mending fences, ditching, laying new paths and building and repairing walls. And what about a new bridge over the stream?

In the event of snowfall, there is exercise to be gained while clearing priority routes and brushing the snow off hedges and shrubs before seizing the opportunity to catch up with the administrative toil and to muse a while over your plans for next year.

Plans

Before thinking about the future, it is as well to reflect on the achievements - and the failures - of this year. There should be no excuse, especially with GPS and mapping, for not having accurate plans of the estate.

Detailed plans are also essential for those tending smaller gardens and in all cases it is necessary to know the area measurements for the whole and for the various sections - lawns, herbaceous borders, kitchen garden, meadow and so on - and also to have an accurate count of the number of trees along with a record of their age and condition.

You don't have time? Make it. Knowing what you have will help budget processes, assist in comparisons and potentially lead to time/money savings.

And tree records are essential. If a gardener, volunteer or member of the public suffers a tree-related accident, then the tree records may be required in court.

Time sheets and more

The end of the year and, hopefully at last, the start of the dormant season should be seen as a good time to calculate the time that is devoted to major tasks.

For many gardens, grass cutting is demanding of huge amounts of time and may require assistance from seasonal workers. Consider whether there is any room for adjustment.

Are there any (more) areas that can be left to meadow or that at least can be left longer between cuts - within the limitations of the grass-cutting machinery available and bearing in mind that the weather can have a massive influence on the grass growth, or lack of it.

Assess other tasks in a similar way and compare to previous years to see whether time and/or money savings can be made elsewhere. Discuss with staff and volunteers.

Check that your records are up to date for the end of the year, including personnel, accident reports, spraying notes, machinery servicing details and rolling purchase plans, planting plans and propagation data.

A few other tasks

Continue taking hardwood cuttings of deciduous subjects, especially climbers and hedging material, plus root cuttings of perennials.

Clear fallen leaves from the rock garden, especially from around alpine plants, and consider sowing alpine seed. Regularly inspect stored fruit as well as bulbs, corms and tubers in storage. Keep a check on the heating in the greenhouse and in the conservatory.


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