AS explained in Chapter 6.9 of ‘Your Garden in Spain – Planning planting and maintenance’ gardens of all sizes and complexities benefit tremendously from a major winter cut back and cleanup which in most gardens is best done during January. The reasons for this are tenfold.
- You will have had a colourful Christmas garden with luck but the frequency of flowerings will have now slowed down or stopped, except for winter flowering perennials such as euryops which will have been trimmed in the autumn to stimulate winter flowerings.
- To prepare the size and shape to match the size of the garden and stop them growing straggly.
- Most plants are dormant or at their lowest level of growth.
- To stimulate new flower buds in the Spring or early summer.
- The soil is cleared of rubbish and weeds and where appropriate hoed or loosened with a hand fork while one can get at the soil most easily with no leaves and less branching growth.
- Bulbs are showing so one can see where not to hoe or fork the soil.
- Unplanted areas of vegetable plots can be cleaned up, turned and covered with compost and well rotted manures which any frosts can break down.
- The sap is down in deciduous flowering and fruiting trees.
- It is a good time to cut back/remove the yellow flowered oxalis before it seeds.
- The weather in January is often sunny and dry which makes it pleasant to work outdoors before the colder weather of February.
We know that with the recent hot weather some autumn flowering plants continue to flower well and it is tempting to leave them until they are hit by frosts. However if left until February new cuts could be susceptible to heavy frost. Done now the sappy ends should have dried and sealed before the worst frosts arrive. In non frost areas the later you cut back the later the first spring and summer flowerings.
The five main tasks are as follows.
- Cut back and prune all perennials, shrubs and trees appropriate to their species age size and format.
- Divide and replant large clumps of perennials.
- Clear all weeds and rubbish from growing area paths and terraces.
- As appropriate loosen the surface soil and top up/extend mulching to prevent weeds from growing, retain moisture and shade roots from the hot summer sun.
- Shred as much pruned material as possible to add to the compost heap.
- Make it possible to walk down paths. The growth after last autumn’s rain was phenomenal.
Next week we will comment on the cut back needs of a range of plants and trees.
(c) Clodagh and Dick Handscombe www.gardenspain.com January 2013.