Monday, 29 January 2018

Winter maintenance

The end of January and the beginning of February is a time for maintaining a steady pace before the gradual acceleration of activity as  spring approaches and when things can become a little frenetic. Time is running out to complete winter maintenance jobs, planned or unplanned.

The vegetables plots have been cleared and a manure mulch applied to protect the soil over winter to eventually work itself in. Winter vegetables have gradually been harvested with just some leeks and kale remaining. Fruit bushes and trees have been pruned and mulched. The greenhouse has been cleared and cleaned. I always resist the temptation for using the greenhouse for storage so you won’t find piles of pots and seed trays nor any general clutter. I do have some tender plants in containers over-wintering and some rows of 'Little Gem' lettuce not far off being ready for picking. The grape vine 'Black Hamburg' has been pruned and trained. It has reached the point of beginning its journey along the greenhouse roof.

With some exceptions, I start off most of what I grow in pots, modules and trays before planting out in their final positions. These are all cleaned and sorted ready for spring sowing. And of course seed packets have been sorted and orders made for new supplies.

Then there are the bigger annual jobs: trimming hedges, pruning shrubs, repairing stock fencing. I’ve also resumed work on the rough wooded areas on the holding hinterland. This has involved clearing wild shrubs (mainly elder and hazel) and cutting out poplar suckers that have become small trees: all good supplies for the wood burner. Finally, strimming the undergrowth. Part of the rationale for this clearance and tidying up, apart from preventing the poplars from suckering out of control, is to make the area less attractive to rabbits. Another reason is to minimise the somewhat thuggish incursions from nettles and autumn leaf fall on the grazing fields. 

Some views of the 'woody hinterland'

There was one building project undertaken over winter which was an 8’ x 8’ mobile sheep shelter. It lasted two weeks. Despite its substantial weight, the recent storm (with no name) was strong enough to lift it up and drop it down the other side of a four foot stock fence. It ended up in pieces - rather a lot of them. The timber and the roofing sheets are all salvageable but it needs to be rebuilt from scratch.

I have commenced further soil preparations on the vegetable plots. I’m putting together a lambing kit which needs to be ready for mid-March onwards and I’m checking for signs of pregnancy in one of the sows I AI’d a few weeks ago. All of this in expectation of good things to come.


  1. You keep busy Philip. Its been too wet to do anything in our garden. I am keeping fit walking until the land dry out. Went away last week and worried about all my cuttings needing a drink. I came back and they look really healthy in the polytunnel.

    Nothing to do with winter maintenance: Somebody asked me if there was an organic solution to dealing with Japanese Knotweed? I wondered if it could mulched or burnt? Any ideas please?

  2. Steadily working through the different tasks. Good that your cuttings are doing okay. I think with JK organic methods might struggle as from what I understand chemical applications are not fully effective. I don’t think mulching will help as the rhizomes survive several feet underground. This is why digging them out by hand is virtually impossible, plus broken bits (including stems) produce new plants. In the UK (not sure if this is EU wide or not) JK is treated as controlled waste and special arrangements are needed for its disposal. Maybe in contained areas burning it off might be worth a try, but I would guess this would need to be repeated whenever new shoots appear over an extended period of time.