Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Winter's Tale; Sort the Compost, Raise the Pots, Turn Leaves into Rich Leaf Mould and Get Some outside Fairy Lights

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Winter's Tale; Sort the Compost, Raise the Pots, Turn Leaves into Rich Leaf Mould and Get Some outside Fairy Lights

Article excerpt

Byline: Alex Mitchell

GARDENS can look soggy and depressing at this time of year but that's a great excuse to have a good tidy. There is something satisfying about clearing away the slimy leaves and prepping the place for spring.

It is the little things that count. Get your pots off the ground, otherwise the compost will get waterlogged and any plants or bulbs in it could rot and die. Even a pot with a hole in the base can't drain if it's on a solid surface such as a table or paving.

Remove any saucers under outside pots, because what was helpful in the heat of summer is a death trap now. You can use anything that will raise pots slightly off the ground. There are terracotta or plastic pot feet designed just for the job see Amei "planter's feet" from connox.co.uk, 12 for PS16, or Homebase's pack of three pot feet in terracotta for PS1.97. I used to use bricks but getting the pot level can be tricky. The budget option is to use corks from empty wine bottles, which works quite well.

City gardeners with pots often wonder what to do with the old compost once they have thrown out the annuals. But do you really have to throw it all out and buy fresh every year? Bags of compost are heavy to lug up steps and through houses in London.

Rather than replacing all the compost in your pots every year, Jenny Bowden of the Royal Horticultural Society recommends tipping out half removing as many old roots as you can and topping up with new stuff. The old can be chucked into a compost bin or on the borders.

Then plant cyclamen, calocephalus, heather and tulips in the pots to transform the scene. There's no point in storing open bags of compost from last summer either, as multipurpose compost runs out of nutrients after six weeks, and will lose its structure after a year.

If you have trees in your garden or overhanging it, the leaves they have been dropping over the past few weeks are not just slimy things to slip on, they're a potential treasure trove. Leave the ones under hedges for hibernating hedgehogs you never know then fill bin bags with the rest, poke a few holes in the sides, tie them up and sling them somewhere you can't see them, perhaps behind a shed or hedge. …

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