Don't let the cold weather put you off – there are plenty of winter garden jobs to tackle that will keep your plot looking tip-top come spring. Plus, getting out in the fresh air is great for the soul, even if the temperature is slightly chillier.
From tidying, seed-sowing and planting, to cleaning out the shed, ticking off these tasks is bound to fill you with a sense of reward. Plus, that well-deserved cuppa will be even more satisfying afterwards, when you’re back in the warm!
So read on to discover the best jobs to crack on with and advice on how to do so. Then, sit back and enjoy the views from your favourite armchair.
And, if you’re looking for more inspiration for these inclement months, don’t forget to check out our winter garden ideas.
1. Plan for the year
With the air of spring just around the corner, winter is an exciting time to plan for the year ahead. Start by having a good browse through your favourite seed and bulb catalogues.
Think carefully about what you’d like to grow – perhaps some trusty favourites plus a few new varieties, or maybe you’re planning a totally new colour scheme come summer.
Garden journals or planners are a great way to get organised and sort out what you’re planting and when. They’re also handy when it comes to growing veggies, so you can plan crop rotations to maximise your plot’s potential.
You can even go a step further by labelling and ordering your seed packets by the months that you plan to use them. Then you’ll be really prepared!
2. Prune shrubs and roses
Chris Wood, Horticulture Expert at Waitrose, suggests getting ahead for the year by pruning roses now. You can also ‘prune winter flowering shrubs such as heathers, or summer flowering shrubs that flower on new wood,’ he says. So if you’ve got a buddleja or fuchsia on your plot, now’s the time to give it a snip, for a show-stopping display come summer.
‘Hardy evergreen shrubs such as jasmine, late flowering clematis can also be pruned now,’ Chris says.
Don’t forget to take a look at our guide on how to prune roses for extra tips.
3. Tidy borders
Now is a good time to remove any debris that may have collected, and cut back unruly growth. You may wish to deadhead spent flowers too, or keep them intact for an extra layer of texture. Keep on top of the weeding to keep life easier in spring.
Chris Wood, Horticulture Expert at Waitrose, also advises to apply organic fertilisers to borders, such as seaweed or fish meal.
4. Sort out the shed
‘Start by taking everything in your shed outside, emptying it completely,’ suggests Gardeners’ World. ‘Brush cobwebs away, sweep the floor and then check over for any structural damage like rot. Dispose of anything that you don’t want or need anymore.’
Then, check if your shed needs any repairs – is the roof leaking, or could the gutters do with a clean? You may want to give the windows a good clean too, and clear the shelves to make space for newly sown seed trays.
5. Plant containers
Filling containers will winter blooms and foliage is a fantastic way to lift the garden. Hardy plants such as hellebores, euphorbia and winter violas are great starting points. Take a look at our best plants for winter pots for more inspiration.
You can also fill your garden with scent using our guide to fragrant winter flowers.
Now is also a good time to re-pot and top dress shrubs which are in planters, suggests Chris Wood, Horticulture Expert at Waitrose.
6. Tidy lawns
Grass is generally dormant throughout winter, so you can take a break from mowing. It’s actually best to stay off lawns entirely where possible, to avoid creating muddy patches.
If it still seems to be growing and you fancy giving it a trim, don’t cut too short. ‘Do not attempt to do this if the ground conditions are very soft or frozen, or during spells of cold, drying winds,’ advises the RHS. Check out our best lawn mower picks if you’re on the hunt for a new one.
Whether mowing or not, you can still lightly rake up fallen leaves and debris, and collect any leftover fallen fruit, for a quick and easy smarten-up.
7. Clean pots
Collect your pots and throw out those which are damaged beyond use. But don’t forget, bits of broken terracotta pots can come in handy to use as drainage.
Then it’s time to give them a good clean, to get rid of any unwanted bacteria or fungus. Brush off any dried mud. Then, fill a bucket with a solution of warm water, a squirt of ordinary dish soap (make sure it's without bleach), and a cup of white vinegar and leave them to soak. After an hour or so, use a cloth or sponge to give the pots a good scrub.
Rinse before storing somewhere safe and dry, ready to reuse.
8. Plant bulbs
What’s more uplifting than the first sight of spring bulbs? Although you can start planting them in October, bulbs planted in December will still bloom. Gardening guru Monty Don even advises that it's still possible to plant tulips as late as early January, although you can expect them to flower later than if they were planted in early winter.
Hyacinths, crocuses, snowdrops, muscari, tulips – there are so many beautiful (and often scented) varieties to choose from. Try the ‘Cheerfulness’ narcissus for lovely fragrance and double-headed blooms, or how about the ‘Queen of the Night’ tulip for elegant, inky colour. Avoid planting in water-logged soils to avoid rot.
If you’re using containers, experiment with bulb lasagnes – planting them in layers. Add handfuls of grit when planting, to improve drainage. There's more advice on planting bulbs in our guide.
9. Clean patios
Thanks to the colder and often wetter conditions that winter brings, your patio may be looking a little worse for wear. Not only can a good clean transform your garden, but it also avoids slipping over.
Start by giving it a good sweep. ‘Choose a day when it’s not too windy,' says the team at Holland Landscapes. 'Whilst some people like to tackle patio slime with chemicals, we prefer to avoid chemical cleaners whenever possible and opt for a good blast with the pressure washer.’
‘Be sure to use a patio cleaning head so you don’t damage the surface of the paving or pointing. If you don’t own a pressure washer, your local tool hire shop can normally rent you one. Share it with your neighbour and split the cost between you.’
Thinking of investing in the best pressure washer to give you a helping hand with your cleaning tasks? Head over to our guide for the top picks available to buy now.
10. Prepare soil for lawns
‘If you are planning to lay a new lawn, then now is the time to prepare the ground in readiness for spring,’ suggests Chris Wood, Horticulture Expert at Waitrose.
Dig out any weeds or large stones, turn the soil, then add improvements if necessary. ‘If your garden soil is naturally sandy and doesn’t retain water for long, dig in some organic matter such as compost or very well-rotted manure,’ suggests the team at Turfonline.co.uk.
‘If you have clay soil which is heavy, sticky and gets boggy in winter, incorporate some gravel to help with drainage and some organic matter to encourage worms to come along and aerate it for you.’
Then, using a rake, level it off to create a flat surface, ready to roll out your turf.
11. Feed the birds
Birds have less food to choose from in the colder seasons, so why not give them a helping hand with a few bird feeders? Your garden will be full of chirpy little friends in no time, who will thank you with their song.
‘In chilly weather birds will appreciate a variety of food, but fatty food will be especially helpful. For example, fat balls, or homemade bird cakes made with lard and packed with seeds, fruit or dried mealworms are great treats to put out in your garden,’ advises the RSPB.
‘Kitchen scraps will work well, and a recipe for successfully feeding birds over winter might include chopped fat from unsalted meat, cheese, dried fruit, and pastry.’
12. Provide shelter for wildlife
It’s a good idea to provide shelter for birds, as well as food. ‘You can provide shelter by planting dense hedges such as privet or hawthorn, or allowing ivy or holly to grow: these all provide great cover for birds to roost in,’ says the RSPB.
‘Nest boxes can also be good roosting sites. Roofs are also a popular spot for birds trying to keep warm. If birds are getting into a hole in your roof and you need to get the hole fixed, consider putting up a nest box to replace the gap.’
13. Force rhubarb
Warm rhubarb crumble (topped with custard or ice-cream) is a delicious dessert for all the family to enjoy. You can start growing these sweet pink stems now, providing they’re under cover.
Cover the crowns with terracotta forcer pots to stop light getting in, and then harvest when they’re around 30cm long. ‘Timperley Early’ or ‘Champagne’ are good varieties to try.
It’s best to avoid harvesting from brand new plants – give them a year or two to establish first. Avoid forcing the same plant two years in a row too – to allow it time to recuperate.
14. Inspect tubers
Cannas, dahlias and begonias can all be lifted once the warmed weather fades, and then stored to replant again the following spring.
However, make sure they’re being stored in optimum conditions, otherwise they might not grow so well again (or at all). As advised by the RHS, dahlias and begonias should be buried in trays of dry sand, soil or compost, with their old flower stalks exposed. Keep the trays cool but frost-free, perhaps in a shed.
For cannas, use trays of coir, vermiculite, or dry sand, exposing the part of the plant where the stems join the roots. Keeping them slightly moist in a greenhouse is ideal.
Keep an eye on them to ensure there are no signs of rot, or drying out.
15. Mulch raised beds
It’s all about preparation in winter, so why not get your raised beds in tip top shape. You’ll likely be rewarded with a bumper crop!
Dig over soils, remove any weeds or debris, and add a good layer of mulch. Well-rotted manure, bark chippings or compost will all do the job of improving your soil ready for new planting.
You can also use a green manure crop, such as winter tares or forage rye. Cut down before flowering occurs and then dig in, or leave for a month or so, before planting.
16. Repaint fences
With less growth to deal with, now is a good time to access fences, especially those that sit alongside borders. Smarten up your fences with a weather-proof paint. Try natural colours for an under-stated hue, think sage green or soft greys.
Or, if you're looking to add a pop of colour, why not consider something brighter? Jazzy orange or cobalt blue might be just the hues your garden needs!
17. Protect plants
For areas where conditions are really cold, you may want to protect your winter crops – cabbages, winter greens, and the like – with fleece clovers.
Cloches or cold frames are also handy against frost, and are cheaper than greenhouses. They can be used in warmer months too, to protect plants from slugs. Just make sure they are ventilated regularly to avoid condensation or overheating.
18. Plant fruit trees
Blossom in the spring, fruit in the autumn – fruit trees are a fabulous addition to the the garden. And, as long as the ground isn't frozen, you can successfully plant them in winter.
'Dig a hole a third wider than the roots and to the same depth as the tree's roots, firming the bottom of the hole into a slight mound,' suggests the team at Gardeners' World. Then, once your tree is in, firm the soil around it before watering.
Crab apple, pear, plum, or cherry are all well-loved favourites. Check out these fabulous fruit trees to plant in your garden for more ideas.
How can I enjoy my backyard in the winter?
Don't let the cold weather put you off getting outside, as there's plenty that your garden can offer throughout winter. Interesting foliage and ornamental grasses can look extra magical with a touch of frost, for example.
You could also consider adding a patio heater or fire pit to an outdoor seating area, and enjoy a cosy cup of tea amongst nature.
If you really don't want to leave the warmth of indoors, plant containers with jolly, winter-hardy blooms and move them in clear view of windows. That way, you can admire them without getting chilly. Placing bird feeders in front of windows will also bring joy to onlookers.
Is it too late to plant a winter garden?
Sowing seeds for winter veg is really a late-summer through to autumn job. In fact, hardy winter veg such as Brussels sprouts can even be sown in spring! If December has passed, it's also a little too late for most bulbs.
But don't worry. You can always use plug plants instead, when they start cropping up in local garden centres. In fact, results are often better, especially in regards to snowdrops.
Whilst you're there, pick up some heather, ivy, and winter pansies, to create colourful containers instantly. And use this time to plan, so that you're ready for next year!
What grows in a winter garden?
Onions, shallots, winter cabbages, kale, perpetual spinach, broccoli, parsnips, and chard are just some of the hardy veg varieties which should survive the winter months.
In terms of flowers, cyclamen offers a welcome pop of colour in vivid tones of fuchsia, as does winter iris. Snowdrops, hellebores, and winter aconites are other lovely additions.