winter maintenance

27 Winter Maintenance Jobs

Odd jobs to do now at your address…

Regular winter maintenance to keep the house and garden in good nick is something you cannot skip. So if you have to spend the cooler months grafting away to fix stuff, smile as it can save you frustration, injury, money and even insurance claims later.

Winter Maintenance Outside the House

  1. Light up your focal points and plants, the pond and treacherous steps with garden lights fitted with low-energy light bulbs. Motion-detecting outdoor lights for security purposes versus those that burn all night is also a way to save on electrical power.
  2. Remove large, overhanging branches close to the house, and also check the centre of large trees for dead or diseased wood. If the garden has been too shady in summer and most of your trees happen to be deciduous, it’s a good idea to study their winter-bare silhouettes to see if you can’t perhaps remove some of the inner branches to make their crowns less dense. This is called ‘feathering’. Keep safety in mind when working with a chainsaw, and wear protective headgear and goggles when pruning a tree or large shrub.
Hot tip: When cutting a branch off a tree, make the cut flush or even a little concave to the main stem and seal the wound with tree seal if needs be. Don’t leave a piece of stump (‘coat hanger’). It looks untidy and could be a portal for fungal attacks.
  1. Treat wooden decks and fencing with a wood sealer. Fix the holes in wire fencing and plant lovely climbers to trail over it.
  2. Trim evergreen hedges and clear out all the rubble that collects under them.
  3. Send your lawnmower for a service 5 and to have new blades fitted.
  1. Paint your peeling garden pots containing specimen plants in a different colour, scrape out the top layer of soil and fill them up with fresh potting soil and compost.
  2. Store garden furniture away after cleaning and repainting it. Wash soft furnishings and slip covers and pack them away.
  3. Cart away old rubble and large heaps of dead plant material not used on the compost heap – this can become a breeding place for all kinds of vermin, and is also a fire hazard.
  4. Repack your garden shed and collect and clean all the garden tools lying around
  5. Do some creative maintenance too. Why not paint a focal wall in a smart colour and decorate it with a wall fountain, wall art or a collection of pots on a pretty shelf?
  1. Cut away rampant climbers leaning over the roof – they give handy access into the ceiling for rats that are looking for a place to overwinter.
  2. Order a bulk load of compost and treat all garden beds to a fresh layer of organic soil conditioner. You don’t have to dig it in, just layer it over the soil to be worked in by earthworms – unless you’re planning to cultivate and prepare an empty bed or virgin soil for planting cut flowers or vegetables.
  3. Winter is a great time to plant deciduous fruit trees, and doing an espalier is a clever way of training potentially large fruit trees to take up as little space as possible. You can either have freestanding espaliered trees, or do it against a wall. Plant some strong wooden poles in a row and attach a few strong strands of wire between them. Plant the trees in front of the poles and about a metre apart. Remove all the back and front branches and tie the side branches securely to the wire. Your trees should look completely spread-eagled now. Keep on removing wayward growth and tying the stretching side branches horizontally. You can espalier climbing roses and berries the same way too.
  4. You can break up heavy clay soil by digging in a dressing of agricultural lime. Add a light dose of agricultural lime to irises and stocks too, as it will promote good flowering in spring. Ailing lavenders and clematis also benefit from a small dose of lime in winter.
  5. Clean out leaves and dead plant material from gutters, down pipes and drains. It’s always a fine idea to clean out the openings of storm water drains in front of your property too, as this can help to prevent flooding.
  1. Keeping lawn edges neat and preventing lawn grass from invading flowerbeds is another time-consuming activity. Think about installing permanent lawn edging. Some, like continuous concrete edging, needs to be done by a specialised contractor. Building it yourself with cobbles or a combination of bricks and pavers requires a little energy and some basic building skills, but once done will last. Other edging options made of metal, plastic or wooden poles are easy to install, because they are bendable and interlocking, allowing you to easily follow the contours of flowerbeds.
  2. In very cold areas bubble wrap is ideal for insulating pots and containers against damage from the cold.
  3. In rainy areas it is a good idea to place a collar of sharp gravel or grit around succulents in pots to prevent stem-rot. This is especially beneficial for quiver trees growing in pots.
  4. As part of your winter maintenance stock up on fresh lime sulphur (for rose and fruit tree pruning at the end of June and in July), bonemeal, organic fertilisers and organic insect sprays. It’s good to be prepared, and winter gardening budgets are generally not as stretched as in summer when we buy lots more plants!

Winter Maintenance Inside the house

  1. It’s time to replace those dead light bulbs, with low-energy or LED bulbs. While you are busy, you might as well wash the light covers and shine the chandeliers
  2. Wash the windows – it gives you a better view onto your garden.
  3. The wood of the front door and the backdoor swells and gets stuck if not treated and sealed regularly in wet weather. Also oil the hinges, unless you like the ‘creaking door’ effect.
  4. Make an appointment to have your air conditioners serviced by a professional company.
  5. De-clutter, clean and organise your work place or study – hospices and old age homes would appreciate all your old magazines and books.
  6. Check all the electric cables around the house. Frayed wires and some DIY jobs can be extremely hazardous, especially those done by a teenager who attached the cables of a reading lamp, computer, electrical guitar, fish tank, snake tank, heater, and other odd things teenagers use daily into one wall socket!
  7. Repack your closets – you can make money by selling all those old clothes you are hoarding. (You are never going to fit into them again anyway!).
  8. Organise your pantry or grocery cupboard – both can be a breeding place for unwelcome critters, and there is a feeling of wellbeing afterwards, seeing your staple foods all neatly packed and labelled in airtight containers.
The Gardener