The short dark days and inclement weather can make the prospect of gardening in winter both unattractive and potentially unproductive. However, a little bit of winter planning can get your garden ready for a great year ahead.

Clean up – Gather all the tools that you have used over the past few months and give them a good cleaning to remove all the dirt and rust. Use a mild detergent to disinfect pots and seed trays.

Check Structures – Check out fences, sheds, gates, and other structures for signs of weakness or rot and get them repaired before the snow and high winds arrive.

Lawn Care – The lawn needs a bit of a breather over the winter months so “keep off the grass” is the best advice. Make an exception to get rid of large weeds, moss and leaves.

Outbuildings – Give sheds and greenhouses a good scrub and organise all those garden tools you cleaned earlier. Spruce up tables and chairs as well.

The Vegetable Garden – Cover root vegetables such as parsnips and carrots with 15cm of leaves or straw and they can be harvested throughout the winter. If snow is forecast cover with an old piece of carpet!

Plants and Shrubs – Dead-head autumn-flowering plants and prune summer-flowering shrubs before the first frosts. Brush any heavy snow from shrubs and trees to prevent broken branches.

Compost – If you don’t already have a compost heap or bin, this is as good a time as any to start one, with all the leaves and cuttings to be disposed of. For those who already have a bin, a good stir will help the composting process along.

Wildlife – Putting out fat blocks and other food will not only help local wildlife to survive the winter but will encourage birds, frogs, hedgehogs etc to stay in the garden and they will repay the favour a hundredfold by eradicating many garden pests in the coming year.

Catalogues – There are few better ways to spend a cold winter’s evening than poring over some of the many mail order seed catalogues dreaming of the growing season to come, and planning your ideal garden.

Clothing – Protecting plants, outbuilding and the local wildlife is very important, but don’t forget the hardy gardener! Dressing appropriately and protecting yourself against the rigours of winter should be one of your first considerations.