Now that Christmas and New Year festivities are over, many gardeners and allotment holders take a rest. Good-o, you deserve it, but do think ahead. Time spent now will result in easier gardening when we begin in earnest next month.
January marks the coldest time of the year, with frost and snow expected. In this case, if the snow is sufficiently heavy to damage plant, pop out to knock it off hedges, conifers and tall plants that might collapse under the extra weight.
A few tips for January
- Most gardeners use this time of the year to tidy up up leaves from paths, clean and service their mowers and gardening equipment. A clear-out now of the shed and greenhouse makes life easier when spring comes and seed sowing starts in earnest. Washing seed and propagating pans now to saves time later.
- Plan your vegetable crop rotations for the coming season, and buy seeds locally.
- Ventilate greenhouses on sunny days.
- Make sure your protection of slightly tender palm-like plants such as cordylines are in place. Draw leaves together to insulate the growing point of the stem. You can use the legs from old pairs of tights for this.
- For a little exercise, dig over any vacant garden plots.
- Inspect stored tubers of begonia, dahlia and canna. Mice and rats love them. Throw out any damaged bulbs and tubers.
- Begin forcing rhubarb to get some nice early, tender stems (makes gorgeous crumble!)
- Prune apple and pear trees, red and white currants, vines, gooseberries, ivy, creepers and hibiscus.
- Refrain from stirring your compost heap as hedgehogs and other wildlife may be hibernating.
- Now is the time to prepare for your early crop of potatoes. Seed catalogues provide a useful source of information as to which variety to “chit” ready for planting out when weather improves. Chitting: Look for evidence of a bud and place the potato bud-uppermost in an old egg box in a light and cool place. Once shoots start sprouting, pinch out all but two or three.
- Think about planting garlic cloves (a small division of the bulb) soon, so prepare a large tub or pot in readiness with robust compost and plant the garlic cloves, pointed end upward, just covered with soil ready to harvest in August.