Essential tasks for January

Keep your garden looking its best with our guide to essential tasks that need doing in January.

flower garden In the Flower garden

Sweet peas: Pinch out the tips of seedlings raised from autumn sowings to encourage sideshoots to form and make bushy plants.

Roses: Continue planting bare-rooted roses. Avoid planting new roses where old ones have been removed, unless the soil is replaced and conditioned, to avoid diseases.

Snow warning: Be ready to brush snow from evergreen shrubs and conifers, as the weight can weigh down and damage their branches.

Containers: Stand planted patio pots up on feet to improve drainage and prevent waterlogging. Protect pots in very cold spells by moving them to a sheltered position.

Cutting back: Many perennials can be cut back hard now, removing old growth to make room for new shoots that grow up in spring. Stachys byzantina 'Silver Carpet' benefits from hard pruning, cutting away all stems at ground level.

flower garden

flower point In the Glasshouse

Hippeastrum: Plant bulbs in free-draining compost and place in a warm position, such as a shelf over a radiator. This will encourage strong root development and flowering. Never leave them standing in water.

Peaches: Move pot-grown peaches and nectarines under cover for winter. An unheated greenhouse is ideal. Keeping rain off these fruit trees prevents the spread of spores of peach leaf curl disease. It also protects their early flowers from frost.

Gutters and butts: Wash down the greenhouse roof to remove grime and let in more light. Clean out the gutters, and empty and clean water-butts.

Crocus: Remove pots of crocus from their plunge beds once leaf shoots begin to show. Wash old compost off their pots, then place them in the cold greenhouse to develop flowers.


Kitchen Garden In the Kitchen Garden

Digging: Dig over bare areas, forking in plenty of compost or rotted manure. If conditions are very wet, cover an area with polythene sheet to keep the rain off, and dig once the soil has dried out.

Apple trees: On trained forms of apple tree, such as espaliers and cordons, sideshoots shortened in summer can be reduced in length now to about three buds. Any new shoots that have grown to extend the framework can be tied in to their supports.

Bean trench: Prepare a bean trench on the site where you're planning to grow your runner beans next summer. Take out a deep trench and fill with the rotted contents of your compost bin. Continue adding kitchen waste during the winter. Cover with soil in late spring, then sow or plant out your beans on top.

Winter washes: Where pests such as woolly aphid have been a severe problem on apple trees, spray now with a tar oil winter wash. Take care not to splash any on surrounding green plants or paving.

Early rhubarb: Place buckets or forcing jars over dormant clumps of rhubarb to encourage stems to form for a delicious early harvest.

New fruit: Continue planting new fruit trees and bushes. Bare-rooted plants, available by mail-order from specialist fruit growers, offer the best value. Raspberries and cane fruits can also be planted now.

Currants: Shorten sideshoots on red and white currants to just one bud. Also remove any old stems crowding the centre of the bush.

Seed potatoes: Place your order for seed potatoes now. These will be delivered later in the winter, when they can be set to form shoots (chitting) before planting out.

Kitchen Garden

General Care General Care

Bulb care: Check bulbs, corms and tubers in store for signs of rot or deterioration. Remove diseased ones and sprinkle others with sulphur powder to prevent disease attack.

Water features: Removing pumps and filters from ponds and water features helps prevent them being damaged by freezing water during the winter. Keep ponds covered with netting to prevent fallen leaves blowing in.

Houseplants: Keep winter-flowering houseplants in a cool position in good light to extend their flowering season, avoiding draughts or any dry hot spots, such as on a table by a fire or radiator. Move plants from cold windowsills at night and bring them into the centre of the room.

Move shrubs: This is a good time to move shrubs that are growing in the wrong place or those that have outgrown their position. Aim to lift established plants with as large a rootball as possible. Prepare the soil in the new planting hole well, digging compost deeply into it. Firm the soil around the transplanted shrub, and provide a stake for support if required. Water in well and mulch with bark or compost. It may be necessary to prune out a few shoots from very large transplanted shrubs, as the damaged root system may not be able to support them.

Mail-order: Write off for seed catalogues and place orders.

Rake leaves: Finish raking up fallen leaves, especially those collected under hedges and shrubs. These offer protection to slugs and snails over winter months, so all leaves should be cleared away. Also clear gutters which can get clogged up and put all the leaves in a leaf bin to rot down.

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