There’s no point in looking for chilly, back stiffening work outside if the weather is treacherous. Use these days to order seeds and plants or to make plans for additions and alterations. But on clear, bright days its worth seizing the chance to do a few jobs here and there.
Here are some jobs for cold days
Order onion sets
Order onion sets and garlic bulbs. Go for reliable, disease free varieties with AGM and F1 status.
Find out how to grow onions
Order seed potatoes
You need to order seed potatoes now too. Once these have arrived they can be put in a light, cool, dry spot to chit. Large egg trays are a good way of cupping the potatoes so that they stand with the leaf buds top most without touching one another. With potatoes it is well worth picking blight free varieties like Sarpo. Sarpo Miro is an excellent all rounder, a maincrop potato with nice taste, good texture and exceptional blight resistance.
Find out how to grow potatoes
Sow sweet peas
Sow sweet peas under cover. They’ll take about ten days to germinate and are happiest planted into long pots or Rootrainers which allow the roots space to grow. Or you can use old cardboard inners from loo rolls. Sow two seeds to a pot for safety, cover with newspaper to keep them dark and put them somewhere safe from mice.
Find out how to grow sweet peas
Think about ordering shrubs and trees now as bareroots. They are much cheaper and will soon catch up with larger container bought shrubs. Bareroot trees and shrubs can be planted now, as long as the ground is not frozen or waterlogged. If you can’t plant straight away keep roots damp or make a slit in the soil, insert the roots and firm with your heel. They will stay happy a few days.
Find out how to plant bareroot shrubs
Plant winter scent
If you don’t already have a scented shrub that flowers now do think about ordering one so that you have something to cheer up the dark days. Witch hazels bring much needed colour while daphnes and winter box are perfect near the house or path where you’ll catch their fragrance.
Find out what plants to grow for winter fragrance
Put up outdoor lights
An indoor/outdoor job: If you have a potting shed or barn that’s badly lit consider buying an automatic LED light. These are cheap to buy, can be stuck or hung on a wall (ie no DIY hassle or other expense involved) and they are triggered by movement so the light goes on when you walk in.
Once the flowers have gone over forced hyacinths and Christmas narcissi can be planted out in the garden
Outdoor jobs for bright days
Plant out forced bulbs
Recycle forced bulbs. If you grew or were given some indoor bulbs such as hyacinths or daffodils over Christmas these may well have gone over now. Rather than throw them away plant them in the garden. The hyacinths won’t come back as big as they were but this actually looks better in most gardens. Daffodils come back very well.
Cut off the spent flowers and feed the bulbs to help them build up strength. Keep giving a high potash feed until the leaves are withered.
Cut plant supports
Coppice some hazel if you have a friendly source near by. The straight and sturdy stems can be used to make bean supports and wigwams. The frilled fingers or branches are perfect for making flower supports. Stick three to five stems above the plant now, before growth gets going. Place these in a circle facing inwards and weave the pliable ends into each other to create a firm structure for the emerging plant to grow through. It will not only look attractive providing welcome structure now but will disappear once the foliage grows.
Start forcing rhubarb
Have a look at your rhubarb and if there are signs of growth cover the crowns with terracotta forcers to speed up the growth of tender early pink stems. Alternatively use sturdy black plastic tubs. A little straw inside will help with insulation.
Find out how to grow rhubarb
New flowers on hellebores are often hidden by scruffy foliage so cut these off and allow the blooms to gleam in the low winter light.
Feed the birds
Check bird feeders are clean before topping up with fresh high energy feed.
Visit our garden bird section to find out how to care for birds
In long dry spells outdoor pots may need watering especially if planted with spring bulbs.
Find out how to care for pots during winter
Warm the soil
Warm soil with layers of plastic sheeting or cloches to prepare for early sowing.
Brush off heavy snow
And, remember, if its snows heavily you might need to brush heavily laden boughs, fences, netting to prevent damage.
Order autumn bedding plants from Saga Garden Centre. Choose between winter pansies, wallflowers or a mixture. £8.99 for 55 plants or £12.99 for 165, with free P&P on all orders. Buy now.