You may have heard of the Chelsea Chop or the Hampton Hack, but have you been introduced to the Twixmas Tidy? I thought not!
The Twixmas Tidy offers a valid excuse to venture outside when you’ve watched one too many repeats, scoffed all the mince pies or run out of nice things to say to your nearest and dearest. Alas, it does not involve the organisation of chocolate-coated, caramel-covered shortbread biscuits, but you are welcome to undertake that exercise in any case. The Twixmas Tidy may be done during the curious void between Christmas and New Year when most of us are either working, but really not working, or just twiddling our thumbs before New Year. I always feel these ‘free’ days should be given more purpose – why not, for example, have a national tree planting day as they do in Bhutan, where every family is obliged to go out and plant a sapling? A missed opportunity in my opinion, but since they’re primarily left for us to do as we please, we may as well use the time productively.
Unlike the Chelsea Chop, which is a one-trick pony, the Twixmas Tidy can include any number of activities, including sweeping, pruning, cleaning, repairing, decluttering and organising. After all the indulgences of the last few days, these might sound rather unappetising, but I find them cathartic and a useful advance on my new year’s resolutions. If you’re with me, here’s a list of things which might usefully be done over the coming days. If you’re not, I am sure The Sound of Music or The Dam Busters is streaming somewhere.
- Sort and clean plant pots, discarding any that are broken or surplus to requirements. Smashed terracotta pots can be used as crocks or to fill the bottom of deep containers that would otherwise gobble up vast quantities of compost. Cracked plastic pots should be disposed of as sustainably as possible, bearing in mind that black plant pots aren’t generally accepted for recycling because the sortation machinery can’t detect them at the recycling facility. Some garden centres offer plant pot take-back schemes, which is much better than consigning them to landfill.
- There’s not a gardener alive who does not have an overflowing seed box. Go through yours and remove any packets past their ‘sow by’ date. Although these dates are purely advisory, you may find that germination is reduced if you sow older seeds. If you discover varieties you know you’ll never plant, consider giving them away or trading them with fellow gardeners for seeds you’d prefer. If you’ve got time on your hands, organise the remaining packets by planting month in readiness for the new sowing season.
- Cut down summer-flowering shrubs, climbers and perennials that have begun to look tatty – roses, buddleia, lavatera, clematis and salvias are prime candidates for a Twixmas Tidy. Sadly, the uber-Instagrammable scenes of prairie-style planting, faded to fawn yet fringed with frost, are a rarity in the UK, where winters are wet and soggy. Rather than let the wind rip plants away from walls or dislodge them from the ground, cut them back to somewhere between 30 and 60cm, depending on the plant type, and then give them a good mulch with compost or fallen leaves.
- While you’re slowly digesting your turkey and Christmas pud, it’s a good opportunity to mend or replace worn-out gardening gear. My faithful gardening clogs have split at the front and will be going to the cobblers so I can get another season’s use out of them. If you’re feeling thrifty, scour the sales for reduced clothing and boots. I bring in my pruning tools one at a time and give them a thorough clean and sharpen before coating the blades with protective camellia oil.
- Scour your shed for the last few bags of spring-flowering bulbs and get them in the ground or pots immediately. Provided they’re firm and free of disease, they will almost certainly grow, even if they don’t manage to flower in their first year. The likelihood is that they’ll bloom, albeit a little later than they might have done had they been planted in autumn. Tulips will be unperturbed by late planting, but don’t leave the job any later than the end of January.
- Give your house plants a pamper – remove yellowing leaves, check for pests and diseases, and ensure they’re away from radiators. Dropping leaves that appear otherwise healthy are a sure sign that a plant is in a cold draught, and poinsettias are especially prone. Move affected plants and hope for the best.
- Remove moss from gutters and sweep it off paths before someone slips on it. I don’t know what happens where you live, but our local magpies take enormous delight in picking over the moss on our workshop roof and scattering it everywhere, including on the car’s windscreen.
- Clear vegetable plots of last year’s crops and spread generous quantities of manure or compost on the bare earth. There’s no need to dig it in – just let the worms and winter rain do the hard work for you.
Do you have a Twixmas Tidy tip that you’d like to share? If so, leave it in the comments below and I’ll add it to my list. TFG.