Winter Gardening and Composting by Charlie Albone

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Winter is such a great time in the garden as you can get on top of all the jobs that you have been putting off due to the need for ongoing maintenance.

 

  1. How to prune and when

I like to give my deciduous trees and shrubs a really good prune as you can see the shape of the plant and pruning them is much easier without the weight of leaves. I was once told, if you can make a tree look good naked then come Spring, it can only look amazing. Start by removing any crossing or rubbing branches. These cause wounds on the tree and infections can easily get into the plant so early removal is a bonus. I then prune to shape, looking at where the plant will shoot from and prune according to the new growth it will put on come springtime.

When pruning larger branches, use a three-step cut system to prevent the bark from ripping. The first cut should be from the underside of the branch upwards and only about a third of the way through the branch. The second cut from the top down, starting further out from the trunk than the first cut so when the branch breaks off it only rips to the point of the first cut. The third cut is the last cut closest to the trunk to tidy things up.

2. Controlling infestations and weeds

Getting on top of infestations of pests is great to do in the cold months. A good knock back with Richgro Beat-A-Bug will break the lifecycle of pests and combining this with colder temperatures will stop them coming back so quickly.

The same goes for outbreaks of weeds. Controlling weeds in winter is a preventative measure ahead of the full growth in early Spring. Hit them with Richgro Beat-A-Weed before they can set seed to break the lifecycle. For persistent weeds or those with a large tap root, a second application may be required two weeks after the first hit – it is still much easier than pulling them out by hand!

3. Enrich your soil

I like to use this time to enrich my garden soil. There is more space to work as deciduous plants have lost their leaves and a lot of the perennials have been cut back ready for Winter and a fresh new spurt of growth come Spring. This leaves lots of open ground to spread Richgro Compost and, Cow and Sheep Manure. Adding organic matter like this will help improve the structure of your soil which in turn, will aid good plant growth. It also improves both water holding and nutrient holding capacity of the soil so come Spring, your plants will have lots of moisture and nutrients to draw upon when they start to grow.

If you have open ground, it is best to dig this through the soil to incorporate it. However, applying it as a mulch to established garden beds is also beneficial and the wildlife in the soil such as worms, will drag it down into the ground.

4. Making your own compost

I like to spend a bit of time on my compost heap during Winter, turning what I have and adding to it with Richgro compost to bulk it up.  If you don’t already compost, you really must start. Making your own compost is an easy thing to do and it reduces the amount of waste you put in landfill.

You don’t need a large garden to start recycling your waste. Simple countertop units can do this for you. These are called Bokashi units as you add the Bokashi grain or spray to speed up the composting process and eliminate bad smells. Once full, (which doesn’t take long) either bury the contents in the garden or add to a larger outdoor heap. As the composting process is sped up by the grain and, or spray, it is totally fine to bury, and it will break down very quickly.

5. Different ways of composting outdoor

Outdoor composting can be done in a couple of ways, I use a tumbler and a traditional compost heap, and the principal is the same. You need the right combination of brown waste to green waste. The green waste is things like grass clippings, kitchen scraps and pruning’s from your plants; this is wet and should make up 25% of the heap. The remaining 75% should be brown waste or dry waste and this can be twigs, sticks or shredded newspapers (none of my blogs thank you).  As we tend to generate more green waste than brown waste, I have a bale of Pea Straw Mulch or Richgro Pine Bark Mulch to add in to bulk up the brown. Getting the mix right is the key to success. Too wet and the heap will smell, and you will attract Fungus gnats and too dry and it will be slow taking years to become useful. I also add a dose of compost accelerator to speed the whole thing up or a nag of Richgro Compost is also a great booster.

6. Compost Tumbler

Compost

Tumblers are compact and perfect for the medium size garden, you simply put in your brown and green waste and turn the barrel to mix the contents and leave to compost. They are split into two sections so once one is full, you can leave it to break down and start adding a new one. Once you have spent a few months doing this, you can empty the older one once both sections are full. You should then have a reliable source of ongoing compost as it all starts again.

 

 

 

7. How to make a compost heap

If you have a bit more space, then a traditional outdoor heap is the way to go as you will be able to process much more waste and therefore get much more compost. The ratio of brown to green stays the same but you need a dedicated area to create a pile. I keep mine contained with old timber pallets as they allow air flow through and keep it all contained and somewhat neat – not that a compost heap is a pretty thing! I have three bays; I fill the first and add to it as material become available. I then turn it into the second bay and third bay when ready. This action frees up space for new piles and helps to mix and aerate at the same time. If you don’t have the space for bays like mine, a flat spot and a pile of waste works just as well. You will need to mix regularly to get the compost from the inside to the outside and the non-composted material into the middle of the heap where it composts quicker.

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