Gardening with Children

Family Zone

Gardening Jobs for the New Year

Date Posted: 15 December 2011

Well the days are still short and the outdoors can feel pretty chilly but there is still lots be doing in the garden at this time of year.

Get Composting
Now is a good time to set up a compost bin. With the growing season just around the corner, and all that weeding and pruning to be done throughout the spring and summer, a compost bin is the perfect way to recycle all of your garden material. …And in return, you will get a fabulous soil improver to dig into the soil. 
For a great range of compost bins take a look here. …Plus take a look at our Guide to Composting for lots of useful tips and hints.
Take Care of Wildlife
Leave dead stems, leaves and piles of twigs in a corner of the garden to provide extra cover for over wintering wildlife. Put out hedgehog food for hedgehogs who are disturbed from their winter slumbers and go in search of food. 
Look after the garden birds. They have had a long very cold winter so far, and extra food plus a ready supply of fresh water will help them to survive. 
Fat balls, bird seed and peanut cake provide desperately needed calories and a bird table keeps food hygienic and away from pets and vermin. A frost-proof bird bath ensures the birds have an ever important supply of fresh water.  …and an old tennis ball in the water helps to prevent it from freezing over.
Clear out any old bird boxes ready for spring. In just a few weeks birds will begin prospecting for a place to nest and old nesting materials can harbour disease. Now is also the ideal time to put up new nest boxes. These will have time to blend in with the surroundings before the nesting season gets into full swing.
…And why not carry out a survey of the birds visiting your garden. Then by repeating it every month you'll be able to see how bird population changes through the seasons.
Start Planning for Spring
Once the growing season gets underway it will be full steam ahead with sowing, potting on, planting out, weeding, digging, tying up…the list is endless. So now is a good time to plan what you want to grow, where and how.
Plan which flower, vegetable and herb seeds you intend to sow and order them now. Also take a look at our choice of potatoes
Don't forget to check that you have all the gardening tools you need. For an excellent range of lightweight solid wood and steel children's gardening tools take a look here.
Ensure you have plenty of biodegradable flower pots, a propagator for getting seeds off to a good start and a paper potter for making all those little paper pots for seedling.
Prepare the Ground
When the ground isn’t frozen start preparing it for cultivation. Begin weeding, and remember that annual weeds such as chickweed and annual meadow grass can go onto the compost heap but perennial weeds such as dandelions, broad leaved dock leaves and horsetails should not be composted as they will multiply, causing extra weeding problems in the long term.
To make vegetable gardening much easier for adults and children alike install raised beds. Raised beds are easier to dig and maintain and also prevent the trampling of little feet. Soil temperatures in raised beds are often higher, so plants do better and crops tend to be bigger. Pests and weeds are also easier to control with this sort of system. 
For an excellent range of wooden raised beds that are easy to assemble take a look here.
Dig well-rotted compost from the compost bin, into the vegetable beds at a ratio of around two shovels per square meter. This will improve soil structure and nutrient levels.
Start Sowing
In late January and into February start sowing early crops indoors in an propagator
Seeds that are suitable include:
  • lettuces
  • spinach
  • salad onions
  • broad beans   
  • rocket
  • baby beetroot
  • peas
Once the grass starts to grow it's an indication that the ground is starting to warm and it's at this point that the hardiest plants will start to germinate in the ground. 
Plant onion sets and garlic if the weather is mild enough and use cloches to cover them and give a little protection whilst they germinate.
When your seed potatoes arrive store them in a light, cold, frost-free place and leave to sprout (or chit …as it is called). Egg boxes are a good way of storing chitting potatoes. Put the eyes of the potatoes facing outwards to increase their chances of producing nice, healthy sprouts.
Repairing & Repainting
Treat wooden fences, compost bins and raised beds with a non-toxic water-based Wood Preservative.  This will give them a fresh new look and will make the wood last much longer too.
Keep Harvesting

Keep harvesting winter crops such as brussel sprouts, cabbages and parsnips in this lovely wooden trug.



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