by Leslie Cox; Saturday; February 2, 2019

Beautiful day at Oyster Bay Park, Campbell River, BCThis time of year it is nice to get outside for a bit of exercise in the garden. Naturally, our garden exercise is a carry-over from wherever our Sadie-walk has taken us that day. Good days of nothing more than a light sprinkle and we drive to one of our favourite, off-leash walking areas and give Sadie a good long run. Have to release the border collie energy every so often. Rain days and it is a shorter walk and depending on how hard the rain is coming down, we may scrap all thoughts of any gardening altogether. However, this last week, we managed to squeeze in some garden hours stretched over three days. Just the right amount of bending, stretching and raking to gently limber up the winter-softened muscles.

Actually, I was the one who got most of the bending exercise…crouched over picking up all the chestnuts which were missed last fall. Really could have sworn I had gotten them all, but quite a few were still hidden up in the canopy…masked by the leaves.

chestnut treeIf you have a European chestnut tree, Aesculus hippocastanum, you will have learned the chestnuts tend to drop out of the tree before the leaves fall. This is huge help to the gardener. Means you can gather up most of the chestnuts before they are buried under a thick carpet of leaves. And believe me, you want to gather up those chestnuts and cart them off to the burn pile or the garbage dump. They do not compost worth a darn. Instead, I have found chestnuts to be one of the most reliable germinators which can present a huge problem for a small garden, given the volume of chestnuts annually produced on one tree.

From gathering up chestnuts I moved on to pruning back some of my tall grasses. Ones in the Miscanthus genus can be cut back to 8 – 10 inches (20 – 25 cm) now. If your timing is off a bit, be sure you get on this job before new shoots start appearing. If you cut off the new shoots, it stops their growth.

Carex elata 'Aurea' - new shoots coming up in January


Grasses in the Carex genus don’t generally need cutting back, but some do. Carex elata ‘Aurea’, Bowles golden sedge, is one example. You want to cut about two-thirds of the old growth off but keeping it to a mounded shape overall. Be sure to do this before the new shoots get too tall! And this can be a problem in warmer than normal winters. In those years, the new growth can appear much earlier than normal. Best to keep an eye on your sedge grass starting two or three weeks before your usual pruning time.

Now is also a really good time to prune your grapes…before their sap starts flowing. John tackled ours over a couple of afternoons…all 43 feet (13 m) of it…pruning everything back to one strong cordon. All set for spring growth.