The Winter Garden – Pruning, Mulching and Dreaming

The Winter Garden – Pruning, Mulching and Dreaming

The winter garden can seem a dull and bleak place, but careful planting can give interest even in the midst of winter.

At the moment I am enjoying the hellebores, holly berries, scent of mahonia and witch hazel and watching the camellia buds swell fit to burst.

In the vegetable garden, the spring cabbages are hanging on ready for the warmth and light to get growing, and the garlic and onions planted in autumn are well sprouted.

Garlic planted in November sprouting well


Living in the south-east of England (on the border of Surrey and Greater London) the weather is often mild well into October and November, and so I tend to leave my pruning until is truly dormant in January and February. Jobs for this week including pruning back the autumn fruiting raspberries, black, white and redcurrants and gooseberries and checking the apple trees to see if they need any pruning. I have an apple tree sapling in a pot that was delivered to me by mistake (it was meant to be a crab apple but I was sent a green apple tree, I’m not sure of the variety as it has only produced one fruit so far, but as it’s so young and pliable, I’m going to try growing it as a cordon.


The delivery of five bags of well rotted horse manure last week provided the potential and promise for a successful harvest later in the year. My husband spent his weekend, audiobook on the go, dutifully mulching the fruit and vegetable patch, the front garden and the newly designed ‘Secret Garden’, which is planned to be a fusion of English garden and Japanese garden, once the planting is complete. In light of the increasingly dry summers and inconsistent rainfall where I live, preserving moisture without increasing water use is an important consideration, and this is where mulching before the growing season begins can be so helpful. Last autumn we also installed a 1500 litre underground water tank with a pump. The tank collects rainwater from the roof of the house and with an above-ground tap, a hose can be used to water the garden as normal. We also have several standard water butts to install and so we hope our use of mains water on the garden can be minimal.


One of the joys for the gardener in mid-winter is planning and dreaming of what’s to come. What will be grown in the vegetable garden? What harvest might fruit trees provide? What new plants and shrubs will be purchased and nurtured? What space might be transformed as planting schemes mature?

Sitting down to order seeds, plan a vegetable garden or decide on a planting plan for a new bed or planter is one of my favourite winter tasks (not least because it is extremely doable accompanied by a hot cup of tea and slice of cake!)

This year I am determined to make more of succession planting in the vegetable garden to increase overall yield and so I am spending a lot of time thinking what will go where and how many of each things to sow and plant. I am on the waiting list for an allotment to increase my growing space but while I wait, I want to make the most of the space I have in the kitchen garden. I also need to work harder in caring for my pots and planters on the patio to make the space feel more like an area of the garden in its own right.

Do you garden all year round, or wait for the warmer weather? Are you mulching, pruning or dreaming of the growing season? I’d love you to share what you’ll be growing in your veg patch or your flower garden and what new plants you might be looking forward to purchasing.

Cultivated rocket, survived the winter frosts and still plenty to harvest

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