January jobs in the garden

Hello and Happy New Year to you all. Let’s hope that 2022 is a good year and life can gradually get back to normal, whatever that is!

After the unseasonably mild weather over Christmas and New Year, it’s now turned much colder with some heavy frosts and as I sit in my office looking towards Wensleydale, I can see snow on the tops. The weather has certainly been up and down of late, but given the choice, I prefer cold and frosty any day at this time of the year, especially if we get a bit of winter sunshine with it. It’s also better for the garden and a period of frosty weather is a great way of helping to control many over-wintering pest eggs on plants. Cold, dry weather also means you can at least get out and potter in the garden for a short while and take in some fresh air.

Even though the days are only just starting to lengthen, there are signs of new life in the garden. Snowdrops are pushing through the cold soil, catkins are hanging from hazel branches (as children we used to call them lamb’s tails) and winter blossom on shrubs is starting to open. Only a couple of days ago I saw a Hamamelis “Witch Hazel’ in full flower, which looked magnificent. Although day length only increases around 2 minutes a day, by the time we get to February it will start to feel much lighter and the garden will then start to wake up properly after winter, so roll on spring.

Witch hazel web

Under normal circumstances, Jill and I would be in New Zealand for January visiting our eldest daughter and her family. We’ve got two grand-daughters there and on our last visit in 2020, the youngest was born. We had cuddles for a week before flying home and can’t wait until it’s safe to visit again. Apart from having quality Granny and Grandad time, it’s great to have a month of their summer in the middle of our winter and while we are there, we always explore several gardens to see the wonderful range of plants that are grown in NZ.

Anyway, enough of my rambling and dreaming of warm weather, there’s plenty to be getting on with back home in the garden. My main tip to anyone at this time of the year is take advantage of fine days to enjoy the winter garden and the many plants that look great at this time of the year.

Jobs for the January Garden.

Give houseplants a winter check-over to keep them healthy and growing. Check the compost and water as the compost starts to dry out. Wipe large leaves with a damp cloth to remove dust and mist foliage plants with water. On flowering plants, pick off faded blooms to encourage more buds.

On a dry day, when the surface of the lawn is dry, lightly rake the lawn to collect twigs and leaves that have accumulated and blown in over the past few weeks.

Make sure that any border-line hardy plants in containers are protected by standing them against a sheltered wall. You can also insulate the container by wrapping it in bubble polythene or hessian to help prevent the roots from freezing. Fleece can then be used to cover the top of the plant.

Wash greenhouses and cold frames to remove green slime and dirt that’s built up on the glass over winter. This allows extra light through to over-wintering plants and helps to reduce pests and diseases.

Clean the glass to remove dirt by washing down with warm soapy water web

Try to avoid walking on the borders, especially if you have spring bulbs that will be starting to push up through the soil.

Start winter pruning on apple and pear trees by thinning over-crowded stems, cutting out dead wood and shorten long branches to maintain a good shape. When I’m pruning, I keep standing back to check the shape and to avoid pruning out too much in one area.

Give garden tools a thorough clean and oil to keep them in good condition ready for when you need them in spring.

Clean & sharpen tools - web

Wisteria can be given a winter prune by shortening any new growth back to 3-4 buds to create short stubby growths known as spurs that will flower in spring. Any dead woods also need cutting out and long shoots needed to expand the framework of branches should be tied to wires or a trellis.

Order seeds from mail order companies to make sure you get exactly the varieties you want before the spring rush.

Check any fruit or vegetables that are being stored in a shed to make sure they are not starting to decay!

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Happy gardening

 Martin Fish.