What to do in the garden in January


It may still feel like deepest midwinter in January, making it tempting to stay inside, rather than venturing into the garden, but there’s always something to be getting on with. 


Trees, shrubs & Other plants

One of the first tasks of the year could be to recycle your Christmas tree now that the festivities are all over for another year, ideally by shredding it for mulch. 

Equally, it’s a time of year when your garden may need to be protected from the elements, so check stakes, ties and anything else holding plants in place. You may also want to think about moving plants around to where they can get most light. And, on days when the sun does come out, try and ventilate the greenhouse. 

Think your patch of land is looking a bit bare? Consider adding a winter-flowering evergreen clematis. 

There’s also pruning to be done – specifically apple and pear trees, wisteria, evergreen hedges, rose bushes, gooseberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants and any winter-flowering shrubs which have reached full flower. 

Some tender plants, begonias and pelargoniums included, require a lengthy growing season, so get them going from seed early in the year. 

Equally, perennial plants like sedum also need their old stems cutting down. However, plums, apricots and cherries are generally best left unpruned. 

Other things that need cutting back include old hellebore leaves, and winter pansies where any flowers have faded. 

Before the birds begin to nest, it’s worth trimming your deciduous hedges.


Vegetables and fruit

If you want a head start in the vegetable garden, a cloche for early peas will warm up the soil for a few weeks before you sow. 

It’s also a good time to grow mushrooms and sprout early potatoes in an egg box or tray somewhere cool, bright and free from frost. Then grow under cover. Use horticultural fleece to protect potato grow bags in unheated greenhouses on very cold nights. 

Begin chitting early potatoes by standing them on their ends in an egg box or module tray, and keep in a cool but frost-free, bright location. Equally, you can begin growing potatoes in covered containers to get an especially early crop – Charlottes are especially good for this. 

In unheated greenhouses, use horticultural fleece to keep potato grow bags warm when it’s especially cold.

As ever, there’s plenty to be cracking on with, from preparing vegetable seed beds to sowing some vegetables under cover. 

Blossom on fruit like peaches, nectarines and apricots will still need protecting, while it’s also worth netting vegetable and fruit crops so birds can’t get at them. You could also have a go at growing your own mushrooms.

It’s not too early to start sowing vegetable seeds like onions and leeks under cover now. You can also get vegetable seed beds ready by weeding and composting. Once the soil is ready, cover it with black plastic sheeting so it stays warm and dry and ready for spring planting. 

However, resist the temptation to sow too many seeds too early. Try speeding up the germination of sweet pea seeds by soaking them in lukewarm water overnight. 

While you should prune pear and apple trees, while they are dormant, apricots, cherries and plums should be left until the warmer months. If you prune them now, these trees will just become susceptible to infections from silver leaf. 

Blackcurrant bushes can do with a good prune at this time of year, as can redcurrants and gooseberries, so that a productive framework is maintained. 

When it comes to rhubarb plants, if you place a bucket or bin, upturned, over the crown, the pink tender stems will be forced to grow. They will be ready in around another eight weeks’ time. 

Find a sunny spot on free-draining soil if you wish to continue planting raspberry canes. 

Now is also the time to order fruit bushes like currants, for planting in a well-prepared bed somewhere sheltered.


Lawn care

In terms of structural work, think about repairing and reshaping the edges of your lawns, and about digging over any empty areas of your garden you haven’t done already.

Don’t walk on your lawn if it is covered by a heavy blanket of snow or frost, as this will just damage the grass below. 


Planning ahead

Order seeds in January, and draw up a plan of how you want your garden to be, so that you know what quantities you need to order. 

In particular, it’s a good time to plan your vegetable plot so that you achieve a good crop rotation which stops diseases and pests from building up in your soil. You may decide, for example, to give over a bed to perennial vegetables like rhubarb, asparagus or artichokes. You can also order tubers and spring-planting crowns to help prepare for the spring. Fruit trees, again for the spring, are another thing to go on the list. 

Think about buying water butts now so you have them in summer, especially for acid-loving plants – rainwater is especially good for these given tap water’s slight alkalinity. 

Other bits and bobs

If there has been snow, now is the time to clear it, wherever it may have fallen in your garden. Brush any heavy snow off your greenhouse or cold frame or the glass could become damaged. 

Remember to feed visiting birds, too, who may well be feeling very hungry just now. It could still be pretty cold so try and keep out some fat balls for your feathered friends. 

Finally, things you need to install in your garden at this time if you don’t have them include water butts and nesting boxes, away from wind, strong sunlight – and cats! It’s also a time of year for hard landscaping maintenance.

And if you have empty pots scrub them with a mild detergent and hot water, rinsing well. Finally, remove any slimy patches on your patio – scrub with a broom or use a pressure washer.


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