The Garden In January

 January is the middle of our winter but it is actually the start of the gardening season. It is often the coldest month of the year but we can still enjoy bright sunny days which inspire We Gardeners to start all over again. As the days continue to lengthen nature wakes from its winter sleep and plants start to grow new buds and shoots and the bulbs begin to appear. The first Snowdrops and Aconites really do lift the spirits. Enjoy the fresh air on dry sunny days while tidying and assessing where to start.


As long as there is no frost or snow on the soil a little energetic digging on the Veg patch and applying homemade compost prepares the soil for planting in March and April. It’s a good time to mulch the asparagus bed and dig trenches for sowing Peas and Beans later. Fill the trenches with rotted garden compost or farmyard manure.


Visit the Garden Centre now for the best selection of seed potatoes onions shallots and garlic. Seed potatoes can then be spaced in trays in a cool frost free light place to chit. Onions garlic and shallots are ready to plant at the end of February. Chillies should also be planted now in a heated propagator or in the airing cupboard, do remember to check for germination which can take a long time. Peas Broad Beans Asparagus and Sweet Peas can also be sown this month.


 It is the right time of year to prune Apple and Pear trees but avoid this job if frost is threatened. An open branch structure allows for good pollination reduces disease and allows sunlight to reach the fruit when ripening. Remove damaged diseased or crossing branches establishing a framework of 4 to 5 main branches. Shorten last year’s growth on the main stems to one third to an outward facing bud leaving some side shoots to produce fruiting buds next year. Secure grease bands to control migrating insects.


Prune established fruit bushes by removing old fruiting stems and leaving an open branch structure for Gooseberries, Red and Black currants and Blue and Hybrid berries. Autumn fruiting raspberries should be cut back to ground level while removing last year’s fruiting stems from summer fruiting varieties and tying new canes to the support structure. Put a thick layer of garden mulch around the base of raspberry canes.


A forcing pot covering a clump of Rhubarb will give you luscious sweet stems in March.


Cover Nectarine and Peach trees to stop the rain causing Peach Leaf Curl disease which will severely reduce your crop and looks very unsightly. Pot grown trees should be moved to the protection of a building for the winter months. Do not prune Plums Cherries Peaches or Nectarines at this time of year. It encourages a whole range of fungus problems.


Pruning Wisteria now by reducing summer side shoots to 2 or 3 buds produces lots more flowers and maintains the shape of the plant. Cutting Honeysuckle back really hard removes the often overgrown tangled mass and encourages strong healthy new growth.


Hellebores, Christmas Roses, are really coming into flower and will remain so for several months. It is worth removing some of the foliage, especially if marked or damaged, to expose the beautiful flowers. There are now so many glorious varieties to choose every garden benefits from growing this plant for its subtle winter colour. It is quite one of my favourites.


If you did not lift corms bulbs or tubers like Dahlias, Canna and Calla Lilies and Agapanthus cover with a thick layer of mulch to protect from frost damage.


This is also the worst month for our garden birds. If we look after them now they will repay us in the warmer months by eating a lot of our garden pests. They have already taken most of the late bugs seeds and berries so it’s time to daily supplement their food and supply water. Fat snacks are a great source of energy and should be hung in feeders free from plastic netting that can entangle the feet of smaller birds. Sunflower seed hearts are another great favourite as well as peanuts. Hanging feeders where the activity can be constantly watched from my kitchen window is for me a great joy.


This month is also a great time to visit the Garden Centre to see what other plants you could grow to add colour and interest at this time of year.