Thursday, June 13, 2024

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What to do in the Garden this Winter

The start of 2021 has begun with a flurry of unpredictable weather, but come rain or shine, there is still plenty to do in the garden. Not your average garden centre, Dobbies is on hand with expert advice to keep you inspired this winter.

With more time to spend at home, gardening expert and Horticultural Director at Dobbies, Marcus Eyles, has plenty of ideas to keep you busy, prepare for spring and welcome garden wildlife.

Marcus said –

“It may not be the natural time you’d think to head outside and do some gardening, but there is still plenty you can be getting on with. Spending even fifteen minutes outside will give you a burst of fresh air and help you to keep on top of odd jobs. As we approach one of the busiest times in the gardeners’ calendar, planning ahead helps me to stay organised and keep on top of anything that might need repairing or replacing in the garden toolbox. With some waterproofs, a hot flask of tea and a pair of headphones so I can listen to a podcast, winter gardening has a quieter, slower pace to it, which I think we can all learn to enjoy.”

Winter gardening inspiration

Tools and Maintenance Range at Scotts of Stow

On dry, sunny days, escape into the garden to make a head start on jobs in preparation for the lengthening days of early spring. If healthy eating is in your focus after the indulgence of the festive period then why start growing your own indoor sprouts and microgreens, so easy and nutritious.

Terrace garden

Start thinking about your bedding displays. The most economical way to fill your tubs and baskets with your summer favourites is to grow your own from young plants and plugs. Pot up into growing trays or fibre pots, using peat-free multipurpose compost, and grow on in a warm frost-free greenhouse or conservatory until all risk of frost has passed.
Summer flowering bulbs are available now. Perfect for garden borders and patio containers alike, chose from Begonias, Dahlias, Gladioli and more for fabulous summer colour with very little effort. On mild days plant patio pots with Lily bulbs to fill your garden with their heady fragrance.

Beds and borders

Where weather allows, now is the perfect time to plant new trees and hedges, creating wildlife friendly structure and boundaries to your garden. If you are planning on moving any plants in your garden, chose a frost-free day while they are still dormant to allow them time to establish ready for the coming spring.

On frost free days take the opportunity to prune deciduous trees and shrubs to maintain their shape. In the event of heavy snowfall, use a broom to gently brush off Conifers, Topiary and Evergreen shrubs, helping to prevent damage under the extra weight.

Cottage Garden

Sow Sweet Peas under cover now to make strong plants for the earliest blooms. Sow 2 seeds into each re-usable deep root trainer or growing pot, keeping an eye out for mice, which have a penchant for germinating pea seed.

If the ground isn’t frozen, you can make a start by planting bare-root roses this month.
Hellebores are full of bud now ready to reveal their welcome blooms. Carefully cut off the foliage at the base to show the flowers in all their glory. Continue to cut back and tidy faded cottage garden perennials but leave grasses and seed heads for their architectural interest, particularly beautiful on frosty mornings, but also to feed winter birds and shelter overwintering insects.

Fruit & Vegetable Garden

Start forcing rhubarb now for the earliest sweetest stems. The traditional way is to exclude light by using an ornamental terracotta forcer, lined with straw for extra warmth, but equally a black bucket inverted over the crown will provide results.

New season seed potatoes, onion-sets and shallots are available now. Place seed potatoes upturned in egg boxes to shoot (chit) in a light, frost free shed or garage. Don’t start them too early as they can’t be planted out until March.

Indoor greenery


After Christmas, the house can feel a little bare. Inject vibrant fresh colour with new-season houseplants that will revitalise your home.

Choose from our range of fragrant flowering plants, handsome Foliage, hanging and trailing plants, Ferns and Succulents. Look out for air-purifying plants to support a healthier environment in your home or office space.

Watch out for wildlife

Garden birds can be vulnerable when the ground is frozen and there’s little natural harvest available. You can help by setting up a bird table or adding a bird box or house to your garden, something that doesn’t require much space. It only takes a few minutes to put out some bird food, and if you put this out daily you will quickly have regular visitors. In winter, fat-based treats are best.

Making sure birds have access to clean fresh water is just as important as putting out bird food. Marcus says – “In freezing temperatures you can stop the water icing over by placing a table-tennis ball in the bird bath. And in the event of snow, check your feeders afterwards to make sure they haven’t been blocked up by snowfall.”

The RSPBs annual Big Garden Birdwatch (29th – 31st January) is a great way to get little ones interested in the natural world around them. Simply pick a time and keep a note of what species see, counting the birds you see land in your garden, then submitting your results. You can even keep watch from the window if it’s too chilly outside! The Big Garden Birdwatch has helped to track and record the number of garden birds and any decline in species for over 40 years – plus you might even inspire the next Chris Packham!

Wet weather advice

Q. Is there anything I can do to protect my garden from heavy rain / storms?

A. Ultimately rain is good for gardens, as it helps plants and grass to grow. When rain is predicted, it’s a good idea to fork your lawn, as this will aerate it. This essentially improves draining and opens up soil that may be compacted, so that moisture and oxygen can reach the grass roots. You can also dress lawns with a scattering of lawn sand, this will help with drainage for lawns growing on heavy soil and improve the general health of grass, keeping it green and moss free.

If you have garden furniture that can stay outside all year round, we would still recommend using a cover to protect it from the rain or frost. To be on the cautious side before a storm or windy weather strikes, make sure your garden furniture is stored away in the garden shed or garage.

Q. What jobs can I be getting on with in the garden if it rains?

A. Why not make the most of the opportunity to have some shed time. The garden shed can become a bit of place to leave unused pots or used tools, so a few jobs that might be worthwhile whilst sheltering in from the rain which will also mean you get nice and organised for spring gardening…

Sort and clean garden tools

Check mowers and machinery are in good working order so you are primed for grass cutting and hedge strimming and know if any elements need replacing
Re-stain weathered wood garden furniture or give metal sets a good clean
Wash and disinfect your pots – make sure you get rid of dry soil from the bottom of pots and then simply soak in a bucket of warm soapy water, give them an extra scrub before rinsing, followed by drying and disinfecting.

Q. How can gardeners work with unseasonal weather and make the most of this?

A. Make the most of heavy rainfall by installing a water butt in your garden. Installing a water butt will conserve rainwater, so you don’t have to use extra water from the garden hose or kitchen tap, helping to do your bit towards being more sustainable and saving money on water bills.

winter garden

It all started in 1865 with James Dobbie who created a business selling seeds. He named it Dobbie & Co. Over the next 150 years the company built up a customer base and started opening garden centres that fast became a go-to destination. Dobbies are now proud to offer 69 stores across the UK. Dobbies are more than a shopping destination; we exist to enrich people’s lives and nurture connections between people, the community and the environment. Dobbies do this by offering carefully considered ranges in-store and online, high quality services, great restaurants as well as engaging experiences.

For the A – Z list of stores in Scotland, England, Wales and N.Ireland, please visit

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