Whether it's a bleak December or the more mild weather we are becoming used to, you can still spend useful time in the garden. David Coton suggests the jobs that can occupy the shortening days.
Should you break the ice on your pond? Dan Everton, Garden Site's aquatics expert, is asked this question by customers when they come to the Garden Centre during the winter.
Your pond is likely to freeze over during any prolonged cold weather we experience during the winter. This leads to many of our garden centre customers wondering whether the presence of ice is a danger to their fish.
For many years I believed that it was to the benefit of the pond and its inhabitants to ensure that there was a hole in the ice.
But according to the charity Freshwater Habitats Trust. breaking the ice has little effect on the amount of oxygen contained in the water. This is because oxygen diffuses into the water so slowly, about 32mm per day, and therefore a hole makes little difference.
The Trust's aim is to protect the nation's freshwater sites so that they can be enjoyed by everyone, In the future they want to see sustainable populations of all freshwater plants and animals, and this is to be achieved through conservation, community action, research and policy work.
They think that oxygen levels may actually rise under a sheet of ice. The reasoning for this is that plants still produce oxygen through photosynthesis, this is then trapped and levels rise. This is of course dependent on there being no snow on top of the ice blocking out sunlight.
So the jury is probably still out although any snow should be brushed off and I would still recommend introducing oxygen if there are fish in the pond especially if the bottom of the pond has decaying matter such as leaves that produce noxious gases.
However, prevention is better than cure and there is a large selection of ice prevention products on GardenSite that work through heating the water or introducing oxygen. The latter can also be useful in the summer months when hot weather will drain oxygen from the water.
The answer to the question I am continually asked is therefore not as simple as it might seem. It's practically impossible to avoid leaves drifting to the bottom of a pond so I would say that it's probably best to err on the side of caution especially if you are a fishkeeper.
Chickens aren't difficult to look after, all they require is a constant supply of water and regular food. As Martyn Loach explains, you should keep an eye open for any ailments, and they'll need to be cleaned out once a week.
Timber garden decking never seems to lose its popularity, and why should it, when it's such a useful way of extending your living and entertaining space. Andy Taylor explains why decking is so easy to install and how best to look after it.
You can create the spookiest Halloween Party in town with a spine chilling cast of para-normal misfits including ghosts, ghouls, zombies, vampires and many other sinister characters who inhabit the dark side. David Coton tells you how to transform your home and garden into a thoroughly scary experience.
In October, David Coton is getting the garden prepared for the onset of colder weather but, at the same time, the arrival of spring bulbs in the garden centre is a reminder that you should also now be planning ahead for next year.