Tidying the garden in winter

Follow our No Fuss Guide to tidying your garden in winter, featuring Alan Titchmarsh.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
To do
To do

Do To do in January

Do To do in February

Do not To do in March

Do not To do in April

Do not To do in May

Do not To do in June

Do not To do in July

Do not To do in August

Do not To do in September

Do not To do in October

Do not To do in November

Do To do in December

Winter is a great time for preparing your garden and greenhouse for the growing season ahead. In this video guide, Alan Titchmarsh reveals how he deals with hibernating snails, then ventures indoors for a spot of pot cleaning. He shares his method of cleaning both plastic and clay pots, ridding them of fungal spores, bacteria and overwintering pests. Then, back outside, he explains how to warm your soil to allow for earlier sowing and planting in spring. Finally, he turns his attention to tool maintenance.

Watch now, for Alan’s guide to tidying your garden in winter.

Tidying the garden in winter: transcript

The winter months are the one time of year when you feel that you can move faster than nature. It’s a time to catch up, to try and beat nature at her own game. But unless you’re particularly assiduous, she can sneak up on you.

There you are coming out for an armful of clay pots, what do you find? Snails hibernating at the moment quite quietly there, but you don’t want to leave them, because come this spring, they’ll start munching everything. What you do is entirely up to you. Me, I’ve never been able to crunch a snail underfoot, so I know they’ve got a
homing instinct, but there’s a big wall and the country lane on the other side. That’s what I do (tosses snail over the hedge). And then I take my pots away and wash them.

There’s nothing worse than spring arriving and discovering all your pots are filthy. Oh, well, they’ll just have to do. You know, you’re carrying on disease with things like this if you leave them looking mucky, and you start potting things and sowing seeds in that come the spring. So, wash them – warm soapy water and with plastic
pots like this, one of these little kitchen scrubbers is quite good. You can soak the pot to soften that caked on compost inside and then just quite assiduously, clean it all off inside and out, to make sure that there’s as little old compost on there as possible. Why? Well, fungal spores, bacteria and all kinds of pests and diseases can lurk in that muck. So when you’ve got it all cleaned off like that and it’s rinsed, just leave it on the staging or
somewhere to dry.

And when it comes to clay pots like this one, same applies. These aren’t quite so good, these scrubbers. You can get a kitchen scrubbing brush like that. It’s a good idea, actually, to be honest, to soak your pots, the clay pots particularly, for an hour or so before you clean them. One of these will do. But if you really want to be posh
and clever, then these proper pot washing brushes are wonderful and you can use them outside as well as in. And again, when you’ve got it all off, do that trick of standing them and letting them drain.

If you’re using crocks, and remember when you’re using a crock in a pot. The important thing is it’s always that way over the hole so it doesn’t block the hole. It stops compost from blocking it and allows free drainage. But these need to be washed, too. So, I mean, life’s too short to wash a crock, isn’t it? But it really is worthwhile.
And there are nicer jobs to do as well, of course, like perusing your seed catalogues by the light of a log fire, with a lovely warming mug of tea. And when you’ve done that, you can go outside again.

If you want to make sure you can get on the soil as early as possible with sowings come spring, then the way to do it, is to cover it right now with thick black polythene like this. What this does, is to warm the soil up, not a tremendous amount of degrees, but enough to enable you to get on there rather earlier because you’re keeping
a lot of the rain off. So it’s not quite so wet, which means it’s not quite so cold. And the blackness of this absorbs heat and so prepares that soil just that little bit earlier. It means you can get out there and get sowing quicker than you could on bare soil. And for the implements that you’re going to be using, make sure they’re all in fine fettle. Things like hoes need to be sharpened. All your tools need to be cleaned of mud. And that way you
can make sure that when you come to use them, if they’re oiled and ready and hanging on the wall, as soon as you take them off and get on the soil, they’re ready to use; and you can probably also steal a march on the pheasants.