Don’t be mistaken. It may be cold and wet outside, possibly windy and maybe even white with frost or snow in some areas but that doesn’t mean we can put our feet up yet.
No, not by a long way.
This is what nature itself sees as the perfect time to start growing.
Think about it.
No, really actually think about it.
Where do trees come from? If you didn’t know, they come from the same things most of our garden ornamentals and edibles come from, the beautiful and life giving seed. Seed that may be in the form of tiny spores or huge nuts, acorns or the fabled ‘Coco de Mer’ the nut of the sea. a Madagascan nut which sails great distances before taken root, but they are all seeds and, in this country, that means they start falling about now.
Mother Nature has a very good reason for just about everything that she does and this is no different. The soil is covered in a thick layer of warmth retaining, rich, leaf mulch and the weather is damp but still relatively warm. Most pests are dying off after one annual mating thrash or settling down for a long winter siesta.
Seeds are packed full of high carbohydrate and fat enriched food which acts like a long life battery, providing energy to develop roots and small leaves before the sun comes back in the Spring. Too much sunlight would encourage growth above soil and require more energy than the roots had time to provide. Winter sun gives the right temperatures, the right amount of light and all the cover they need.
Look further at the alpine varieties. The Mountain Ashes, the Pines and other high plains specialists. The seeds from these elitists will not grow until they know there will be improving conditions, when the worst weather has passed. How do they control that?
By developing a shell which needs to be deep frozen before it will crack. That way, it has to pass through the coldest part of the year, before the Spring, before it will start to initiate growth. This ensures survival.
Clever things these seeds.
Forest fires do the same thing in reverse for drier countries, but we can’t really describe the good old U of K as a dry or hot zone, not yet.
It is this perfect storm of root growing conditions that also makes Autumn and early Winter the more natural time to plant out those jewels of the long term beds, the fruit trees and bushes.
Now, when the beds are being cleared, the borders are looking forlorn and the garden is showing its skeleton, it’s time to think about structure, form, winter colour and, of course, tasty juicy fruits.
Places like the ubiquitous garden centres may provide a limited choice, if you look closely between the decorations and fake plastic singing and dancing Christmas reindeer but the real place to buy or just to browse has to be the specialist fruit nursery.
Places like Blackmoors, The famous Ken Muirs or The Real English guys. Any and all of these and their brethren will not only supply stock but will throw in the right advice for making them work. Plus of course, they are grown in the U.K. for U.K. conditions.
Get the roots of these in now, or before the soil warms up in March, and they will get a head start on any Spring plantings, benefiting in a full year step ahead for harvesting. A healthy orchard will provide plenty of fruit for years to come with little work other than careful pruning and feeding each autumn.
How many other crops are that rewarding?