Jobs to do in the Garden in Winter

The relentless grey skies are lighter this week. Time to step outside and watch the cat get stuck up a tree, maybe waste hours trying to get her down with ladders and treats. Or, leave her up there, and follow this list of exciting things to do.

Cat in a tree
Sort out the seeds

Soon it will be time to sow seedlings. But first, you need to see if you have any.

Seed collection.  Poppies, Sweet Peas and Courgettes

I found poppy heads, something mouldy in a jar labelled ‘courgettes’ and wild sweat pea pods, that are already curling open to welcome spring.

Sunflower heads

And, a spider community in a box full of dusty sunflowers. Look at these and think ahead to yellow heads waving against the deep blue sky.

You can see real-time flowers, and blue sky, if you flick through the social media looking-glass, where clever friends display perfect holidays.

Unless you can be genuinely glad about their holiday, step away from the phone, and stick to dusting off old sunflower heads.

Looking at seeds is dangerous because you will decide to grow vegetables. Remember, if you already have seven packets of different kinds of beans there is a reason you did not plant them. Something to do with not having a spare four hours a day for all the tending. But it is no fun to think like that, so decide to plant something you haven’t got, and then you can go to the garden centre.

The garden centre is great because it has: other human beings, a fish section in case you fancy keeping fish (which are no good for tadpoles so don’t), a warm café, clean gloves, sharp secateurs and important seeds to add to your collection.

By the time you get home, you feel self-righteous about not buying the fish, excited about your new gloves and ready to layout seedling trays with hope in your heart.

Sort out your Pots. 

If you want to grow things you must have pots. Try not to buy new pots at the garden centre.  They cost a fortune and you will find plenty of old pots when you get home.

Flowerpots full of grass

Don’t worry if they are full of grass and weeds. Grassland is an excellent carbon sink, so grass in plastic pots must be a good thing.

Wonder if the Chickens are Destroying the Lawn.

They are still locked in and we move their little cage to fresh grass most days. That is their chance to escape, and rush off to hide. You have to wave sweetcorn around to get them to charge straight back into captivity again. They are much easier to fool than the cat.

Grass damaged by chickens

Yesterday’s patch is full of scratched out dead grass. This is a controlled experiment, to see if grass benefits from concentrated chicken farming. The results are due next summer.

Wonder what This is About?

Somebody here grew sweet potatoes last year. I am allowed to look after the overwintering plants because I have the ‘best windowsill for them.’

It is hard work changing the water every week, vegetables are nothing but trouble. Each plant might produce a huge sack of sweet potatoes, or perhaps just one tiny shrivelled one, but it is worth it for the interesting root shapes.

Look for New Trees.

If I wanted to fly out to meet the clever friends and be part of their amazing holiday I could claim carbon offset with the number of new trees around here.   

New Damson trees

Last year there was one Damson tree and now there are 20. These all turned up on their own, gathering in clumps and expecting to stay. If the grass does not grow back after being wrecked by chickens, we can have a small forest instead.

Hazel Twigs

Hazel sticks are cut back from a tree and planted, to see if they keep growing. If this works, the cat will be stuck at the top of that twig one day.


We chopped down the spindly Eucalyptus last summer and now the stump is covered in new growth. This is the sort of miracle that can happen in a garden when you look away for six months.

Scrape up Moss

Clearing moss from paths is satisfying unless you stop to wonder why you are doing it. 

Moss on the path

If somebody says ‘How was your day?’ and you say ‘Oh it was so much fun, I spent four hours scraping moss off a path’. It could sound a little sad and boring.

But it is meditative, good for the brain without the effort of yoga or mindfulness exercises.  And, wet moss is more slippery than a banana skin and you would not go skipping along a path full of banana skins, so there are two good reasons.

Admire Shapes 

This is stinging nettle corner.

Tree stump

Nettles grow a couple of metres high here in a good year, so the only time you can see this interesting tree stump is in the middle of winter. If you walk past it quickly you can pretend it is a troll, but you will only do that if you have met Scandinavians, and know that trolls are worth making up.

Make a List of Places to Tidy

Look around and notice that some kind of reverse burglar came in and left heaps of stuff in messy piles.

Pile of junk

An ugly plant that is too big for the green bin and refuses to die.  Burnt toolbox from a charcoal making experiment, wood that might be good for a fire, the last bee frames, useful bit of bannister and look, empty pots. There they are.

The reverse burglar attacked some steps with a bag of rubble too.

Soon it will be time to get out there with a scrubbing brush and hot soapy water and spangle those steps right up, and you can pretend you are a housewife from the 1950s when you do things like that. They always looked so happy as if they knew what they were doing.  Housewives I mean, not the steps. Is that why we like vintage stuff? Was it really a happy time for women? Must get a hairband with a bow at the top and find out.

Scuttle back Inside and Count Come Uppances

There is plenty to do, and you have to keep busy to avoid the tax return, which is not due for hours yet.  In the UK we have the joy of waiting for Sue Grey to deliver her verdict on Partygate and watching Boris thrash around in his last days as the lies get more blatant, and the police close in. We are full of glee when we watch the news. You have to laugh.

But then they interview some of the thousands who were forced to let their loved ones die alone, while Boris had his parties, and then you have to cry a little bit. It is not really funny at all.

We also have the important things like a new series of Call the Midwife, and old things that we missed the first time around like Schitt’s Creek. Winter is very good for some things.

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