So here’s my dilemma: life with a young family is hectic and it’s never easy to carve out time for hobbies. And my big passion is gardening, which by it’s very nature involves season-specific maintenance that, no matter how crazy family life gets, I can’t really ignore without suffering the consequences. The last thing I want to do is turn my passion into an endless list of chores that I feel like I’m failing on. What to do?
Mulling over this conundrum is how the 10 minute gardener feature was born. The idea of taking just ten minutes out of my week to look after the garden feels manageable, even at this crazy time of year. Approaching the task from this point of view has made me much more likely to actually do something, rather than being paralysed by the idea of making the time. It also helps me to focus on the few crucial jobs that will keep things ticking over, which is really useful if, like me, you enter the land of pottering the second you set foot outside.
I’m not trying to strip gardening back down to a joyless ‘must do’ list here; I’m trying to find a way to get the essentials done at those times when there really is very little time to spare. With a young family we’ve all been there more than once I’m sure. I hope it goes without saying that if you have more than ten minutes to spare for gardening this week then lucky you, and go potter at will!
Here are my top winter gardening jobs to tackle this month.
Care for containers
Frost is bad news for plants in terracotta pots; as well as causing the pot to crack it can penetrate the pot and damage roots. A quick and easy solution is to wrap the pot in bubble wrap and secure with twine. And if possible raise pots off the ground with bricks, blocks or ‘pot feet’ to avoid them sitting in an icy puddle all winter.
Leaving fallen leaves on your lawn can kill off the grass, encourage moss and cause lawn disease. Rake them up and add to the compost heap, or make your own leaf mould for next year when you’ll have some lovely rich mulch for your borders.
Quick weed attack
If you have any really weedy areas, cover them with a piece of old carpet or thick black polythene (weigh it down at the corners). This will kill off the weeds over winter and make your spring tidying and planting so much easier.
Encouraging winter wildlife in the garden is one of the best ways to keep the kids interested over the colder months. Give them some responsibility for supplying birds with food and water; you could even have a go at making your own fat cakes. Older children can check that feeders are not empty, and younger ones can fill them up. My two love the fact that this is ‘their job’ and take it very seriously.