The Mill Gardens in winter

After another amazing season in the Mill Gardens, the time has come to not only put the garden to bed for winter, but also to look ahead to and plan for the coming year.

Ornamental Plantings

Over the last few weeks we have been busy cutting back spent herbaceous perennials, tidying the borders and applying a generous layer of mulch. Mulching adds much needed nutrients and organic matter to the soil, protects the soil from erosion and also helps suppressing weeds.

In addition we have planted plenty of bulbs and early flowering plants to provide early colour and interest in the season. 2000 crocuses were planted amongst our apple trees, while a range of tulips, including 'Spring Beauty', 'Black Parrot' and 'Apricot Beauty', where planted in our ornamental borders. In addition we have planted forget-me-nots, wallflowers and daffodils for additional colour in early spring.

Crops

All our cereal  crops, including rye, wheat and oats, have now been sown. We found that the voles have taken a particular liking to our cereal crops, demolishing a whole sowing over night. But we have been fighting back, developing "vole-proof" netting to protect our crops, which are now establishing nicely. More excitingly, we have seen our resident kestrel diving into the garden, finding a regular, welcomed meal.

The last of our leeks are still providing the kitchen with fresh produce from the garden, while the spring cabbages are establishing nicely and should be ready for the first harvest around April.

Fruit and Vegetables

With most of the vegetable beds cleared for the winter, it is time to improve the soil for next year's crop. The ground is being dug and plenty of organic matter is incorporated.

At the same time we are looking through all the new seed catalogues, planning for the coming year and getting our seed orders ready.

Winter is also the time to prune our soft fruit and top fruit. Spent raspberry, blackberry and hybrid berry canes have been cut back, while the apples, pears, currants and gooseberries will receive their winter prune later in the season.

Jobs for Winter

  • Prune open-grown apple and pear trees, but do not prune stone fruit like plums and cherries this time of the year
  • This is the best time to plant bare-rooted trees and shrubs, including fruit trees and shrubs
  • Dig over vacant plots when soil conditions allow, incorporating as much organic matter as possible
  • Plan your vegetable crop rotation for next summer
  • In late winter, sow some vegetable seeds under cover and start chitting potatoes
  • Sow sweet peas under cover in late winter for an early flower display, but wait until spring to sow hardy and especially half hardy annuals

THE MILL MEADOW AND WOODLAND IN WINTER

After providing a spectacular display in the summer, our Mill Meadow was mown and the cuttings were removed in late summer. Our resident sheep will now graze the meadow throughout the winter, but might have to moved temporarily to avoid overgrazing, which could damage floral diversity. Managing our wildflower meadow in this way ensures that soil nutrient levels are kept low, allowing a great diversity of native flowers to compete with more vigorous plant species.

Now that the leaves have dropped, our woodland has a lighter feel to it. With its wood piles, bug hotel and bird boxes, this area provides shelter for its diverse wildlife over the winter months. The log path, cone throwing game and teepee also make the woodland a great area for children to play in and explore. To further improve the woodland's ground flora, we planted 3000 wood anemones, which should flower from February until the bluebells come into their own in May. We have also added hundreds of wild daffodils and cyclamen, which should add to the floral diversity of our woodland

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