A very Happy New Year!  I hope the festivities were delightful and you are refreshed and ready for adventures anew.  I had a filling time, far more food than usual, my undoing was the brilliant chestnut roasting spade thing that I put in our log fire and I have gorged like a squirrel on it’s way to a five year hibernation.  But despite managing to cultivate a fabulously comfortable me-shaped-grove in my sofa I am itching to get outside again.  So let’s have a look at the seasonal jobs and see if I can race/roll you to them.  I haven’t written lots this time as it is hard to type with an after eight in one hand and a mince pie in tother!  But if you are a South Londoner then I have done my best to show you where to take your Christmas tree for it’s final resting place.  As always, and I feel most importantly this month, I’ve put in a few adventures for us in my ‘days out’ bit.

Seasonal Jobs

Blimey trousers has it rained! I had a small waterfall in my back garden.  So lets make sure we have on our waterproofs (button undone for a week or two I thinks!) and waders and lets squelch out there to have a go at some of these cheeky little gardening jobs:

  • Start cutting back grasses and other perennials that you left for winter interest.
  • Spread any left over compost around the garden and let the worms do the work.
  • If your roses or gooseberries had a visit from sawflies this year then have a light dig around the base of the plant to uncover the lava that is lurking there – leave these little cocoons uncovered and if the cold doesn’t get them then a hungry bird will.
  • This is a great month for getting your lawn mower serviced. Or do a good clean up yourself and replace any blunt blades. The offer is there for me to take it to the guy I use so get in touch.
  • Dig all available ground. As long as there hasn’t been a hard frost and the soil isn’t too wet, dig, dig, dig!
  • Plant your lily bulbs in pots.
  • Clean and sharpen your tools and, if necessary replace some tools. If you are throwing anything out, please let me know as the school gardening project I help run can always do with tools no matter how elderly or broken!!
  • Prune currant bushes by shortening side shoots and remove old stems that are crowding the centre of the bush.
  • Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries back to soil level.
  • Prune your apple and pear trees.
  • Try not to walk on frosty grass as it leaves big black footprints come the thaw.
  • Cut off any blotchy leaves that appear on your hellebores, new healthier ones will soon replace them.
  • Plan and plot your vegetable garden for the coming year, buy in seed and get excited! Whether you have a whole allotment or a few odd patches in a flower border we can provide you with a tailor made plan so please get in touch.
  • Cover soil in your vegetable garden with black polythene (bin bags do just fine, just pop a brick on each corner to anchor it) this will warm up your soil ready for sowing early veg and salads in the Spring.
  • Start forcing rhubarb – place a large bucket, dust bin or forcing jar over the crown to encourage fresh, pink shoots.
  • Cut back ornamental vines, Ivy, Virginia Creeper and Boston Ivy. It’s a good idea to keep them away from windows, doors, gutters and roof tiles. It is much easier to remove live ivy, so try not to cut the base and hope to pull it off once brown.
  • Cut back your wisteria, taking back all side shoots to finger-length. This job does take ages, so it is advisable to take your new iPod/old radio out with you.
  • Order your potatoes and save your egg boxes for chitting them next month. With the potato fairs coming up please let me know if you want me to pick some up for you.
  • Berries, seeds and natural food sources have been exhausted now, so feeding birds becomes more important. It is the big garden bird watch on the 26th and 27th of January so have a look at the RSPB’s website.
  • If, like me, you are itching to sow something, then tomatoes, peppers, onions and sweet peas seeds can all be sown in the green house or on a window sill.
  • Sort out any trees, roses or shrubs that need a winter prune.
  • If you do have a collapsed fence do let me know as I can recommend some excellent local people, who offer great rates and do a brilliant job.
  • For any advice or help then please get in touch.

Recycling your Christmas Tree

This was always my seasonal newsletter offering, for all of you with real trees out there – I feel somewhat nostalgic writing it up again, I hope it will make your life easier if you are out there looking to dispose of your tree:

Croydon:  From Wednesday 2nd until Sunday 13th you can take your tree to The Secret Garden or Sainsbury’s on Whitehorse Lane. For other collection points in Croydon then click here for the Croydon Council website.

Southwark: If you live in Southwark and you are part of the garden waste collection scheme then you can just put your tree out on your collection day and your bin men will take it away, or give them a ring on 020 7525 2000 and they will arrange a free collection for you. If you like to drive around with a dying tree then you can always pop it in the car and take your tree to Belair Park, Peckham Rye Park or have a look at Southwarks website.

Lewisham: Yet again it is Lewisham who have gone all previous with their collection points and have opened them on December 28th, whatever happened to the 12 days of Christmas? So from 28th December until 27th January there will be collection points at Sydenham Wells Park, at the entrance on Wells Park Road and at Mayow Park at the entrance in Mayow Road. For other places in Lewisham click here.

Bromley: The borough of Bromley scares me!  You have to be very organised to live in Bromley so here we go – trees to the temporary recycling sites on Saturday 12th 11am-4pm or Sunday 13th 8am-12 noon only, if you live in Beckenham then Unicorn Primary school is your nearest site!  Have a look at Bromley’s council website to check their funny times and their seasonal message of prosecution!

Lambeth: If you live in Lambeth and are part of the orange sack recycling then they actually come to your door and take your tree away for you! On the week beginning 7th Jan just leave your tree with your rubbish on your normal collection day and they take it away….you lucky lucky people! If you aren’t an orange sack person or if you miss the collection day then the nearest collection point is on Streatham Common or Clapham Common. For more information then click here to check out the Lambeth council website.

I’m offering the usual service of collecting and recycling your tree. Email me for details as soon as possible.

Recycle at home: If you have an open fire or a brand new wood burning stove (oh yes Matt!) then why not keep your tree, cut it into bits and use the resin filled branches as firelighters.  You can get a double benefit if you strip the branches of the needles, or save your fingers and let the needles drop off of their own accord by leaving your hacked up tree in a bin bag, then use the dropped needles as mulch for your ericaceous plants, so blueberries, azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias those sort of fellas.

While you’re in the mood for recycling then grab all your Christmas cards and take them to Tesco, WH Smith, M&S or TK Maxx and chuck them in the Woodland Trust Recycling bins, they’ll be there throughout January.  (Very odd webpage for woodland trust that I’ve just done the link for….I was wondering why celebrities would inspire any of us, in any way, to recycle anything.  BUT then I noticed Melinda Messengar’s occupation is now stated as Modal – and as we all know Modal is a cellulous fibre from Beech trees – so silly me, she is practically a card herself, of course she cares!)

Days Out

To get into the mood for the Big Garden Bird watch I’m going to take a day at the London Wildfowl and Wetland Trust and try to get there for 11.30 or 2.30 for a guided tour, I don’t really have an excuse for missing it as there is one every day.

I know we’re over the hummock as we wave goodbye to the shortest day of the year and look forward to days creeping ever towards spring, but it is still dark by 4ish so I try to stay closer to home with my adventures at this time of year. There are so many to choose from so lets have a wander, a ride of a new bike, a scoot of a new scooter or a chuck of a festive frisbee in one of our very lovely parks.  My most local park which we always enjoy a play in is Grangewood it is good for a frisbee flinging and kite flying.  For a more bicycle friendly place we like South Norwood Country Park.  For the scooter rider we head to Dulwich Park, as there is pavement there!

On the 27th January you will find me at Sydenham School for London Potato Day and Seedy Sunday, last year I did put in my request for a ‘King Edward themed rollercoaster ride’ as they insisted on calling it a potato fair – I see they dropped the word fair but have raised the bar this year and I hope I haven’t misinterpreted their promise and arrive under dressed!