What to Do in The Garden in January
You may think that January is not a month to be thinking, or indeed doing, any gardening. With its short day lengths, cold temperatures and often wet and dreary weather conditions, gardening does not perhaps spring to mind. However, you would be surprised that there are plenty of things that you can be getting on with, both indoors or outdoors, to set up your gardening year ahead.
When the weather is inclement there are a number of preparations you can make from the comfort of your sofa.
∙ Now is the perfect time to plan your garden and your vegetable plot (don’t forget to rotate your crops if you grew your own veg last year to minimise the risk of disease and pests!). I always find a garden journal handy for this, as you can roughly sketch out your beds, deciding where you are going to put everything and it is easy to see last year's layout and adjust accordingly.
∙ Take a trip to see us at the garden centre, get some great advice, buy or order seeds, spring planting tubers, clematis, and fruit trees and replace any pieces of kit that have perhaps seen better days.
∙ Chit your early potatoes on your windowsills, in a bright, cool spot ready for planting next month.
In the Greenhouse/Shed
∙ Check all of your essential gardening kit, clean, and replace as necessary. Not the most exciting of jobs, but it will really stand you in good stead for the busier months.
∙Take a look at all the bulbs and seeds that you have stored and bin anything rotten or past its best.
∙ Fire up the propagator and start growing some seeds, e.g. chilli seeds, begonia, geranium, or sweetpeas, ready for planting out in the spring.
Out in the Garden
On the days that are more pleasant, there are several outdoor jobs that you can get done this time of year. Some tasks that you may want to include on your to-do list are;
In the Veg Patch
∙ If you planted them last year, there are a few things to harvest now, including leeks and parsnips. Perfect in a nice winter stew!
∙ Check over and remove any yellow leaves from your brassica crop.
∙ Place cloches out on the places that you are going to plant your early peas. Prior to planting this helps to warm up the soil.
∙ Now is the time to start forcing your rhubarb, by covering the crowns. It then will only be approximately 8 weeks before the tender pink early stems are good to harvest.
∙ If you haven’t done so already, while the trees are still dormant, give your apple and pears a prune. As a rule of thumb, it's good to aim for a canopy reduction of 10-20% in one winter. Try to work evenly around the tree, and don’t overdo it, you can always revisit it next year. Pruning encourages strong regrowth and you are aiming to take out some of the old wood each winter. The majority of the fruiting wood should be quite young, ideally between 1 and 4 years, as this fruits the best. Remember not to touch your apricots, plums, and cherries at this time of year though, as this will only result in making them susceptible to silver-leaf infection.
∙ Get prepared for your runner beans to plant in the summer. Dig a trench, fill with rotted compost, and then in late spring cover with soil.
∙ You can press mistletoe berries into the bark of apple trees this month, to establish your own mistletoe plants.
In the borders
∙ Tidy up the borders and remove any stray weeds.
∙ Deadhead winter bedding where necessary, a good example would be winter pansies.
∙ Remove any old leaves to provide more space for incoming blooms and check for diseases such as black spot on your hellebores. For perennials, cut down their old stems, although be careful not to cut the new growth.
∙ Now is an excellent time to prune your roses too. Remember to cut just above a bud and remove any dead branches.
∙ Whilst you have the pruning sheers out, if you have any wisteria in your garden, you can remove the vast majority of summer side shoots so that you only have a couple of buds remaining. Make sure that it is tied back adequately too.
∙ Ornamental grasses can have a bit of a haircut now as well. Give them a good cut to just above ground level.
∙ Establish new snowdrop colonies and hellebores by buying plants in flower and popping them in situ.
∙ When the ground isn’t frozen, January is a good time to plant ornamental trees, hedging, shrubs, and bare root roses, although where the roses are concerned a good tip to avoid disease is to not plant roses where they have been taken out.
Miscellaneous Jobs around the Garden
∙ It is good to get all of those maintenance jobs out of the way now, like tying back anything that has been a bit battered by the winter storms, check all stays and supports, pressure wash any patios that need it, and generally having a good tidy up. Remember to try to stay off your lawn as much as possible though as you may damage the grass at this time of year!
∙ Encourage the birds to your garden by providing food and water. In turn, they will reward you in the warmer months by eating some of the pests that visit your garden!
∙ If you have a good snowfall, don’t forget to shake off your bushes and trees, which can be damaged by lots of heavy snow weighing down the branches. Also, don’t neglect your greenhouse and cold frames too to avoid any damage. It is surprising how heavy snow can be.
∙ Cover tender plants with fleece to protect from frost if not already done.
∙ Construct a polythene shelter for your peach and nectarine trees to protect them from peach leaf curl.
∙ Move patio pots to a sheltered spot to protect them from the worst of the cold weather.
Well, hopefully, we have provided you with some inspiration for what you can do to get your gardening year off to a good start. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us or better yet, come in and visit the garden centre and we will be more than happy to give you some pointers and help you channel your gardening enthusiasm!