WHEN the emotional clutter of Christmas and the New Year have finally become a memory, clear thinking and confidence returns to rejuvenate my faltering spirit.
I can then once again appreciate the emptiness of winter.
At first glance, winter speaks of barrenness and desolation, but in fact it hides a lovely truth: the beauty of silence.
The trees and shrubs, even the landscape may appear silent, but in truth they are simply resting so there’s no need to say anything.
They are not thinking about what lies ahead, whether spring is going to be early or late, or what pest or new disease might arrive to torture them.
We too, I believe, could do with a little more silence, reflection, and contemplation every now and again.
We worry about so many things and yet few are imperative or essential.
That said, Covid and climate change remain extremely worrying and we must continue to meet them head-on, until they are fully resolved.
As gardeners we have found that climate change has in recent years brought about milder winters and it has allowed garden weeds to continue in leaf and stalk without as much as a hard frost to sap their vigour and knock their enthusiasm for invasion.
I notice the long trails of speedwell now mixed through the whorled, un-sticky (for now) goosegrass, and find it easy to remove but it’s only one of many.
There seems to be a constant procession of all weeds this month and the list includes shepherd’s purse, groundsel, and hairy bittercress.
These, even as I write, are rising and spreading.
Unfortunately, time has caught up with me and age means that I am reluctant to seek ruthlessly, and totally remove these young offenders, but their rankness mocks my ability to get down regularly to their level.
But I can and do get down, but it takes greater effort and full concentration.
Now, when I go hand weeding, I bring a soft, waterproof kneeler, a bucket for the weeds, and a stainless-steel hand-fork, but if this method is not for you, there are other ways of achieving satisfactory results.
Existing annual weeds can be eliminated early this month by smothering them with a two-to-three-inch layer of mulch material.
Weeds and their seeds which are deprived of light and air will certainly not germinate. Anything in the organic line will suffice, well-rotted manure, garden compost, wood or bark chippings, gravel, pine-needles (wonderful beneath acid-loving rhododendrons and all lime haters) or best of all, horse manure.
As well as smothering weeds, these materials will keep within the soil the moisture we now frown upon and release it when conditions demand.
Who could forget the drought conditions on occasions last year, and how plants everywhere were put under overpowering stress?
Similar conditions will no doubt return this year but by mulching now, you’ll stave off its worst effects.
Kill existing weeds on drives and gravel areas with Pathclear or Weedol, both of which can be used during cold weather.
The former will stay active for six months, the latter will not.
It can however be applied to all unwanted soft green foliage even in the coldest conditions. Keep these chemicals clear of ornamentals and on no account treat weeds in lawns.