It’s a bright, cold day here, & if I wasn’t writing this, I’d be out in the garden, … honestly I would, because if you’re wrapped up well, it’s a fine place to be.
January is the perfect time to get everything ready for the busy times ahead, because although it looks like everything is on hold, things are stirring. Close inspection reveals small buds appearing, & underground roots will be putting on growth ready for the year ahead.
Preparation for the year ahead:
You have to admire weeds for their tenacity & ability to find just the right space to grow. They’ve made a good start in my garden already, so I’ve been out with my hoe to cut them off in their prime. Swiping their heads off with a hoe is far more satisfying, & much quicker than digging them up later in the year.
Clean plant labels from last year, gather together small plant pots, seed trays & make sure you have plenty of compost for seed sowing. Storing compost in a shed or greenhouse warms it up ready & welcoming for seeds.
Put food out for birds & a fresh supply of water, they especially need help at this time of year when most of their natural food supply, berries & the like, have all been eaten.
Last summer seems a long time ago, I have almost forgotten how lovely dahlia flowers are. But wonderful images on New Zealand Instagram accounts, where they are in full flower now, remind me that it’s worth getting organised now to have late summer flowers.
Order dahlias now online & they’re be delivered at the right time for planting. I bought mine as small plug plants last year & grew them on & it worked very well.
If you stored dahlias last year, check them for signs of dusty grey/green mould, gently wipe it off & move them to a dryer place with better air circulation.
Cut the tattiest of the old leaves from Hellebore plants, especially if they have dark splodges on them, this indicates fungal disease. Minimise future infection by destroying the leaves, rather than composting them.
The idea is to allow light & air to get to the emerging flowers.
Sow sweet peas in tall pots with plenty of room for their roots. You can soak the seeds overnight before sowing them to soften their hard casing & speed up germination.
The sweet peas I sowed last autumn are about 6in tall now, & in need of pinching out. This makes for bushier plants & therefore more flowers, though the flowers are generally smaller.
Snip spent flowers from pots of winter bedding plants, such as violas or pansies. I’ve got a big pot of pretty purple/blue violas that, with spasmodic dead-heading, have been flowering for months.
Fruit & vegetables
It’s a good month to what you’d like to grow this year, make a reasonable list, then edit according to how much time & space you realistically have.
Write up plant labels & store them along with the relevant seed packets. Not only does this make you fell like you’re in charge, it’s one less thing to do when it gets busy in the garden.
Prune grape vines now, any later & the sap will have started to rise, which causing cuts to bleed.
Cut autumn fruiting raspberries back to soil level.
Prune blackcurrant bushes, cutting old, dark wood to the base & younger stems by a third.
Gooseberry bushes need thinning out to let air circulate through them.
Prune apple & pear trees, first remove dead, diseased & dying wood, then stand back & see what other small branches need removing to give an open shape to the centre of the tree.
I’m making marmalade this month, the first time ever. I’ve bought Seville oranges, apparently they make the best, bitter-sweet jelly, & I’ve also bought a sugar thermometer, to take the guesswork out of ready to set. I’m looking forward to marmalade on thick brown toast.
Most people are holding their breathe & waiting for Spring, but January hosts some wonderful shrubs, many of them with fabulous scents, such as Sarcococca [Christmas Box] & Daphne bohlua Jacqueline Postill.
My last piece of advice is to find a winter garden for inspiration & then get out into yours, visit your allotment or tidy up your balcony. Enjoy the rest of the month, Spring will be here soon enough.
all photos: Jill Anderson