Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because the days are short, wet and cold at this time of the year that there’s nothing you can do to get your garden ready for spring – there’s plenty to be getting on with!
From ordering seeds and plug plants to cleaning the greenhouse and taking cuttings, it’s time to put on an extra woolly jumper and a pair of gloves and get gardening in January.
Your essential January checklist
- As long as the ground is not waterlogged or frozen, you can plant bare-root shrubs, roses and ornamental trees.
- Take hardwood cuttings from shrubs such as willows and forsythia
- Clear beds of any debris that’s been blown on by winter gales and cut back any foliage that’s showing signs of mildew
- Keep the bird feeders topped up – this is the time of year that wildlife needs the most help, so don’t forget to leave some nuts out for the squirrels too
- Try to avoid walking on very wet grass or beds
- Check stored bulbs are not mouldy – discard any that are rotten
- Scrub down paths and walkways to remove any algae, and give the greenhouse a top-to-bottom clean, replacing any cracked or broken panes.
- Finish the day by warming your feet in front of a fire while you order your spring flower and vegetable seeds.
Flowers and borders
Things may look bare at the moment, but there’s plenty going on underground. You’ll start to see snowdrops popping their heads above the frost. Once they’ve finished flowering, you can lift large clumps and split them, distributing them around the garden to create larger drifts for next year.
Hellebores are about the only other flower on show right now. Check foliage for black spots, and remove any leaves that have black blotches on them. If you’ve got alpines, make sure they haven’t been smothered by fallen leaves. A deep mulch on beds will introduce a layer of protection for delicate shoots during those sharp frosts, as well as enriching the soil.
Vegetables and fruit trees
It’s time to winter prune fruit trees, as well as cutting back gooseberries and currants to around three buds from the base of the plant. That will encourage healthy early growth and a better yield.
If you have a vegetable plot then get ready for some heavy-duty digging! If the ground is
waterlogged or frozen then you may have to wait for a few dry days until the soil’s drier, but if you can, get your manure and organic compost into the soil now. The frosts in February and early March will break it down and prevent manure scorching delicate plant roots later on.
It’s time to order seeds, onion and shallot sets, and seed potatoes ready for early planting as soon as the weather warms the soil.
Garden tidy-up tips
Disease and mould can easily develop in a greenhouse over winter, so get the scrubbing brush and hot soapy water out for a top-to-toe detox.
Give pots and seed trays a clean, and throw away any seeds that are mouldy or past their best-by date.