GARDENING: Get pleasure from winter’s color palette

GARDENING: Enjoy winter’s colour palette

With Joyce Russell

WHAT a wet and windy time November was! It is also getting colder and there is no doubt that winter is upon us. Most trees have been defoliated by this point, but there may still be a few bright specimens hanging in sheltered corners of the garden. Enjoy them while you can. Winter brings a whole different color palette and it will be a while before we get more than a few bright colors in the garden.

Recent winds have helped blow away many fallen leaves, but there are accumulations at the edges of beds and in corners. It’s a good idea to remove these before the grass underneath starts to deteriorate. You don’t want muddy edges between the lawn and beds.

Bring the pepper plant indoors

Chili plants can be bought as decorative houseplants at this time of year. They look very attractive with small red, green, purple and yellow peppers mixed in among the foliage. You can of course pick and use the chilies if you want to taste them. These strains were probably bred more for their looks than their taste, so be prepared to taste with caution. Chili peppers can range from barely tingly to searingly hot. Do not place the plants where small children might be tempted to pick and taste them.

If you’ve grown your own chili pepper plants in pots, now is a good time to bring one indoors. A greenhouse or polytunnel offers some protection, but plants will flower and fruit longer if they are indoors near a window. Remove any damaged leaves and you should prolong the plant’s harvesting vigor. Large plants need lots of light and not too much water. If the plants can be kept strong and healthy, you can transplant them back into the greenhouse next year.

plant broad beans

If you started sowing seeds in pots last month, young plants should stand up and grow well.

It’s time to get these into the soil before the roots begin to squirm around the pots in search of more nutrients.

It’s a good idea to plant a short row in the polytunnel if you have the space – the plants will need the space for several months before they’re done harvesting. Plant more beans outdoors under a dome and these will start harvesting a week or two later than those in the polytunnel.

Broad beans sown in the fall are fairly hardy, but the leaves can be blackened by a hard frost. Cover the rows with a layer of garden fleece when cold nights threaten, or water frozen plants with lukewarm water to remove the frost before it does too much damage.

A few blackened edges aren’t too much of a problem, and the beans will form new side shoots if the main shoot is badly affected. Don’t give up a frosted being

a plant until you’re really sure it won’t survive – I’ve often been surprised by the vigor of these young plants.

A little stress

The yard can look a bit scruffy at this time of year and everything can be too wet to even consider mowing and digging.

Even when the grass is wet, you can get the trimmer or grass trimmer out and use it to tidy up the garden. Trim the edges around the beds and level long clumps of grass. Be careful not to cut the cable and damage the grass roots. A quick move can make a big difference.

Cut some drains

All of the November rain has soaked my garden heavily in places.

Sloping areas were fine because the water always flows down, but this resulted in stagnant water in the flat areas at the bottom of the garden. This does no harm if the rain is short-lived – the land quickly drains and dries up again – but plant roots will rot if left in wet soil for too long.

Trees and shrubs that like a drier root run can be lost in a very wet winter.

The answer is to cut a few drains to drain the water if possible.

Even a shallow ditch made with a hoe can help drain water away from vulnerable plants. Use a spade to cut deeper and more permanent drains and follow the flow of water to make sure it’s flowing freely in the right direction. You can poke holes in the bottom boards of raised beds if water is pooling for lack of an easy exit.

You can even go a step further and consider diverting water to create a pond or stream or other water feature in the garden.

Winter can be a good time to tackle major infrastructure projects, but you may have to wait for a nice time to make work more enjoyable.