Growing Inside Over Winter

I keep hearing what a harsh winter we’re going to have this year. It’s even been dubbed Freezageddon by some commentators, which is a little dramatic if you ask me. None-the-less, whether it is going to be the coldest winter in 50 years, or indeed just ….cold, having a greenhouse or polytunnel in which to grow over winter is very handy indeed.

For a start, even when there’s thick snow on the ground all around, you’ll still be able to dig out (and pick) some of your vegetables from inside. For a badly behaved gardener like me who loves gardening and doesn’t like having to wait till spring to get active again, I couldn’t imagine doing without.

Cleaning the Polytunnel

Be sure to keep your polytunnel clean over winter

Growing inside enables you to naughtily extend the growing season, carrying on that bit longer and starting earlier in the year. It boosts results from harder-to-grow, warmer climate craving produce no matter where you live and what the seasons throw at us.

Plus on a rainy day (and let’s face it we’ve had a fair few of those recently) you can still happily garden away protected from the elements.

Even the smallest, unheated polytunnel or greenhouse can make all the difference. While extra tricks such as using ground cover to warm the soil, using a cold frame for extra protection and an inside heating system will expand your opportunities even further…

Here are just a few of best things about growing inside:

Earlier planting

Peppers, aubergines and chillies in particular need a longer growing season and the professional growers I know all start them in January/February for a bumper crop.

Tomatoes and cucumbers also benefit from being inside, even the hardier varieties and especially here in West Wales.

Everything in fact can be germinated and planted out just that bit earlier…

Growing more exotic varieties

There is much more room for experimentation and growing a wide range of exotic and rather exciting plants that you might otherwise not have tried. Melons, sweet potatoes and okra are worth trying and more sensitive, heat-loving fruit trees such as cherry, lemon and lime and peach really benefit from being kept inside in pots over winter. Although the citruses will need extra protection if the thermostat does indeed plummet as predicted.

Later planting

If you’ve been a bit slack with some of your planting and maybe missed your usual planting dates, it doesn’t matter when you grow inside because seedlings will have that bit extra time to catch up. As long as it’s not too late and the plant has established itself (before the shortest days) it will remain intact (and fresh) for a lot longer than during the summer months. Some of the best for lazier, later planting include spinach, rainbow chard, winter salad leaves and cress which all shoot up quickly given half the chance.

So don’t fear the weather doom-mongers. Yes, they could be right but come rain, hail, snow… whatever climatic conditions are thrown at us; with just a little outside protection you can ensure that you and your produce are warm enough inside, which is where it counts.

Kim StoddartKim Stoddart is a gardening writer for the Guardian and blogs at

Top 10 Inspirational Gardening Quotes

The life of a gardener can be a tough one. Hours of toil out in the cold, wind, sun and rain… we can all do with a little something to inspire us now and then. So we’ve gathered a collection of our favourite inspirational gardening quotes – a few words of wisdom to keep you going!


Audrey Hepburn Quote

‘To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow’ – Audrey Hepburn


Abraham Lincoln Quote

‘We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses’ – Abraham Lincoln


Janet Kilburn Phillips

‘There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments’ – Janet Kilburn Phillips


Francis Bacon Quote

‘a garden… is the purest of human pleasures’ – Francis Bacon


Gertrude Jekyll Quote

‘A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust’ – Gertrude Jekyll


Oscar de la Renta Quote

‘Gardening is the work of a lifetime: you never finish’ – Oscar de la Renta


Mahatma Gandhi Quote

‘To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves’ – Mahatma Gandhi


C. L. Fornari Quote

‘No life is without difficulties, no garden is without weeds’ – C. L. Fornari


Marcus Tullius Cicero Quote

‘If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need’ – Marcus Tullius Cicero


H. E. Bates Quote

‘The garden that is finished is dead’ – H. E. Bates

Do let us know if there are any other motivational gardening quotations that you love!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Gardening in Winter: A Complete Guide

Gardening in Winter

When the cold winds blow and snow begins to settle on the lawn, it’s tempting to close the backdoor and spend the winter curled up by the fire. But if you’re an outdoorsy person then there’s no need to give up on the garden for a whole season every year. With our guide to gardening in winter you’ll find plenty of projects to crack on with before the spring, how to protect your plants against the cold and top tips for making the most out of your time outdoors.

Winter Gardening Jobs

  • Pruning. Some plants are best cut back and pruned over winter, such as roses, shrubs, fruit trees and deciduous hedges. This will encourage healthy new shoots to grow when the weather warms up again.
  • Cleaning. While the life in your garden is less demanding, it’s a good opportunity to sort out a bit of general maintenance. Hosing down your paths and patios will not only spruce them up, but also ensure they’re free of grime which could become slippery in the cold, damp conditions.
  • Checking for structural damage. If you have a greenhouse, conservatory or shed then winter is the best time of year to give them a good inspection. Most of the surrounding foliage will have died back, leaving a clear path to see any cracks in the frames or broken window panes. Fixing these now is crucial for protecting any plants inside from freezing draughts.
  • Ordering seed catalogues. Get prepared for the sowing season by choosing seeds and plants to buy. It’s a good time to sit back and plan how you might like to redesign your planting or reflect on which flowers grow best in your garden.
  • Cutting the lawn. You won’t need to mow the grass anywhere near as frequently as in the summer, but if the weather is mild it will need doing every now and then. The grass won’t grow as fast, so you can leave it longer than normal.

Winter Gardening Tips

  • Don’t compact the soil. During wintertime, the ground will likely be saturated from excess rain and freeze due to the plummeting temperatures. It’s best to avoid treading on the earth too much as you will compact the already dense soil, making it even more difficult to work in the spring. So try to step lightly when you need to go over it.
  • Maintain tools. There won’t be many labour intensive jobs to do in the garden over winter so it’s a good opportunity to show your tools some TLC. Oil any machinery that requires it and sharpen the blades of your trimmers and secateurs. Then you’ll be all set for cracking on when the frost thaws.
  • Keep watering. It’s easy to overlook watering your garden when the weather’s so rubbish this time of year. But it’s still important to go outside and give your plants a quick water every now and then, particularly if it hasn’t rained in a while. And don’t forget to water your indoor flowers too!
  • Plan ahead. Winter is a great time to plan your garden design for the coming year. Most of the plants and trees have died back, leaving the core layout of your plot clear. Take advantage of this by mapping out new paths or patios, or deciding where to put that new shed or greenhouse.

Trees in Winter

Winter Planting

  • Winter loving plants. Surprisingly, there are a few plants that defy nature and come into their own in the chilly months. Besides evergreen trees, these include witch hazel, winter jasmine, winter honeysuckle and viburnum. Add a few of these for a colourful flowerbed all year round.
  • Winter vegetables. If you have an allotment or kitchen garden, then there are plenty of hardy vegetables that will keep you going over winter. In early summer you can sow broccoli, leeks, winter cabbage and brussel sprouts, which are all capable of enduring the frost – and perfect for a Christmas dinner!
  • Frost protection. As any gardener will no doubt be aware, most plants don’t take well to frosty nights and freezing temperatures. There are many methods to protect your plants against frost, from cloches and fleece blankets to careful watering and layering mulch.
  • Indoor gardening. Perhaps the simplest way to get your gardening fix without having the brace yourself against the chill is by planting inside. Not all plants will grow well indoors, so make sure you do your research. Most plants will grow best in rooms full of light and insulated against draughts. For the most effective indoor growing, it may be worth investing in specialist lights and a grow room.

Winter Wildlife in the Garden

Wintertime can be harsh for animals in the wild. Food is scarce, conditions are icy cold and shelter is hard to come by. You can help out the creatures that come to your garden by providing a little assistance. For the birds, leave out extra food in your birdfeeder and keep your birdbath topped up with water – though make sure it doesn’t freeze. A tennis ball in there should do the trick. You can also plant berry bushes, which will provide a source of winter food and a place to shelter.
For other creatures, make sure there’s somewhere for them to bunker down and sit out the winter months. Simply leave out a pile of leaves or uncut grass for groundlings to nest in.

Bird in Winter

What to Wear Outside

Obviously the priority when gardening outside from November to February is keeping warm. Wrap up as much as you can with hats, gloves, scarves and coats, while allowing enough ease of movement to be able to get on with your digging and pruning. A great way to cut back on the layers while retaining the warmth is with heated clothing. You can use heat pads for your hands or even battery heated socks and gloves for long-lasting toastiness. Just make sure that you don’t spend too long outside at a time, especially if you’re feeling unwell. There’s nothing like a regular tea break to warm yourself up!

One Year Ends, Another Begins

So don’t let the cold weather and long nights dishearten you too much – there’s still plenty of opportunity to get outside and enjoy your garden in winter. From protecting the plants you’ve tended all year to planning new features for the next, winter is the perfect time for reflection and inspiration. Take a brisk walk through the grass before huddling up inside with a hot drink and admiring your garden through the window. Treat someone special to a book full of gardening ideas for Christmas. And most of all get ready, for spring will soon begin!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Bird Care in Winter

Winter can ruffle a few feathers for birds.

Winter can ruffle a few feathers for birds.

For wild birds in particular, winter can be a harsh time of year. As they are unable to hibernate like many other species, the ones that don’t migrate to warmer climes have to fend for themselves during the cold winter days and nights. As the temperature plummets, the sparsity of food can lead to their fat reserves being depleted, and ice can freeze over bird baths, leaving even water hard to find. For these reasons quite a few birds will disappear from your garden completely during the winter – these include house martins, swallows and varieties of warbler. Conversely, such are the patterns of migrating birds, that some will make an appearance only for winter – coming from colder climates such as Scandinavia. These include waxwings, bramblings and redwings. But whether the species of bird in your garden are winter visitors or year-round residents, there are things you can do to ensure that they survive the cold.

Bird Baths

Winter bird bath.

Note: Do not let this happen to your birdbath!

One thing you can do is set up a bird bath in your garden, if you haven’t already. Primrose has a huge range of bird baths, from simple bowls to elaborate fountains. Bird baths not only provide water for birds, but also give you a chance to see your feathered friends in all their glory, as they provides a natural gathering point for birds. Remember to break any ice and clear away any snow that forms over the birdbath during cold snaps, as this happening will leave birds unable to drink. Alternatively, you could place a small, light float in the water to prevent your bird bath from freezing over completely should the cold strike, or pour warm water over the birdbath. Whatever you do, it is important never to add any chemicals, even something as innocuous as salt could have adverse effects on the birds themselves. However, in both summer and winter it is a good idea to clean out and replace the water in your birdbath regularly to prevent disease.

Feeding Stations

Bird Cakes, as shown in this feeding station, are a great idea for birds in the winter.

Bird Cakes, as shown in this feeding station, are a great idea for birds in the winter.

As well as water, another thing birds need is food – this is especially true during the winter months as there is less natural food is available. This is where a good bird table or feeder can come in handy! It is best to locate them at an altitude, so groundlings cannot steal the bird food, and to keep the birds’ feeding area out of reach of predators. Stock it up with high protein seeds, but more importantly many birds’ fat reserves get depleted during winter so using fat cuttings or lard from the kitchen to create a “bird cake”, by cooking the fat or lard and then mixing it in with the seeds. This will create a fattening snack for birds to peck at, which can then be hung on trees or placed on a feeding station, or perhaps both. It is actually quite important to vary the way in which you distribute the food around the garden, as some birds are more comfortable using a hanging bird feeder, while others much prefer a flat surface upon which to graze. Like with birdbaths, hygiene can be important with your feeding stations too. Make sure that food stayed in the feeder, and clean up any crumbs or droppings that pile up at the bottom, as these can attract pests. Also be sure to clean up uneaten food, as this can create disease.

Shelter and Safety

Shelter from the elements and protection from predators are also important components of bird care in the winter. Having a prickly bush near your birdbaths or bird feeder will give your birds not only shelter from the elements but also somewhere to hide in case of predators, have too many shrubs, however, and this could provide a spot to predators to stalk their prey – for this reason it might be best to place these items out in the open. You might also want to invest in, or perhaps build, a roosting station for your birds to provide an especially safe place for them. To help ward off the birds’ most common predator, you could also invest in a cat scarer, to help keep your bird baths and feeding stations safe and clear from these animals. Or if you own a cat – put a bell on it. Birds will only settle into a routine of feeding at a particular spot once they are sure that spot is safe, so its important to try and keep it clear of predators.

Follow this advice and you’re sure to give our feathered friends a helping hand in making it through to the spring.

CharlieCharlie works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly on online marketing.

When not writing for the Primrose Blog, Charlie likes nothing more than a good book and a cool cider.

To see the rest of Charlie’s posts, click here.