While the country was singing Auld Lang Syne, you'll have found me doing my New Year's Jig. The corner has been turned! Happy New Year! Ahead of us there is the anticipation of a natural world getting set to unfurl (or having already done so in the case of many daffodils and catkins).
Of course, there's that one key date on the immediate horizon - Big Garden Birdwatch - which this year falls on 30 & 31 January. Make sure you've made a date in your diaries with your slippers and coffee mug for an hour to check the nation's garden wildlife pulse.
At this time of year, it can seem that there’s little that can be done in the wildlife-friendly garden, and of course so little daylight to do it in. In reality, however, there's plenty to get on with to make a cracking start.
I love that feeling, having steeled myself to go out in the dank and grizzle, to them find that after only a few minutes work, the blood is coursing around the veins. Ok, I admit, the woolly-lined wellies help, too.
Here’s are some things for which January was invented!
Trees to come out; others to go in.
I'm into my second winter's work of what might seem a really drastic act - removing up to 100 trees from the acre of abandoned garden I've taken over. Most of the time, you'll hear me encouraging people to plant more trees, but when it is lines of dangerous, massive leylandii, you'll understand why I had to bring in the chainsaws.
What it will then allow me to do is replace them with a smaller number of choice trees, which will ultimately give me a garden of sun-filled glades, one of the richest wildlife habitats you can aim for.
Buying native trees at this time of year that are dispatched bare-rooted means you can pick up decent, chest-high saplings for under a fiver each. Bargain!
Using what the garden produces
As my tree surgeon beavers away, I’ll be trying to use every last bit of ‘waste’ he will produce. I pile the shreddings high where they will quickly rot (usually venting steam as they do!), which I can use as a mulch on rustic paths.
The logs I turn into mounds which I then bury underneath the spoil from digging the pond.
It is part of my motto of 'minimum in, minimum out'. It's a great way of challenging yourself to limit the impact of your gardening on the wider world.
Digging new borders
Unless you're on gloopy clay, mid-winter is a good time to prepare ground for planting later in the season. Any frosts will help shatter clods of earth you turn up.
On my garden plan (for I’m a devotee of putting down onto paper what is going to go where), I’ve selected a piece of ground that I'm going to turn into a Butterfly Border. It is very sunny but very sheltered as well. I've defined the edges with string, and will give it a quick turn over now (I'm expecting an attendant Robin to be watching my every move) and then it'll be much easier to give it a fork and rake for planting up as soon as the soil starts to warm.
With winter having revealed the bare framework of the garden, I'll use the opportunity to get into borders, saw in hand, to cut out a few more gaps at the base of fences.
After my first year here, I still haven't seen a single Hedgehog, and I want to do everything I can to put that right, and that includes making my boundaries 'permeable'.
I'm at the mercy of chance, for maybe there are no Hedgehogs left in my immediate area, but if there are, I want there to be no reason why they can't scuttle easily in and out as they please. I run an open-door policy here!
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