It might be the middle of winter but there is much to do in the garden. January brings promise as each day is a little longer than the one that went before. By the end of the month the longer days are noticeable. If the weather is mild there is lots to be done.
If you are lucky enough to have some grapevines in your greenhouse then January is a good month to pay them some attention. Prune any lateral shoots back so as to leave two or three buds on the shoot.
January is a great month for sowing sweet peas in the greenhouse. Use deep pots as sweet peas put down long roots. Some gardeners like to recycle toilet roll or kitchen roll tubes as they break down easily in the ground. For the best results or if you are thinking of showing your blooms, then sow one seed per tube. Water them carefully and keep an eye on them while they germinate. Any failures can be resown.
Gooseberries should be pruned this month. There are two reasons to do this while the plants are dormant. Firstly you will need to cut away any dead or diseased wood. Secondly you should aim to prune to create a good shape with plenty of air flowing around the heart of the plant. Prune out any damaged stems and any stems that are making the bush look crowded and unkempt.
Rhubarb crowns should be lifted and split. This applies to crowns that were forced last year as they will need to build up strength for next year. Make sure that there is plenty of manure or compost dug in to the ground where you plan to replant. You can force established crowns for an early harvest by placing a pot or bucket over a good, sound crown, keep checking the crowns, though, as rhubarb grows really quickly.
Another fruit garden job for January is to plant raspberry canes, plant in ground that has had some compost or well-rotted manure dug into it. Spread the roots when planting, making sure they have had a good drink by being left in a bucket of water beforehand.
Take a few minutes per week to check on any fruit or vegetables that have been stored. Apples that are showing signs of going bad need to be used up. Pears similarly need checking as do potatoes. Any potatoes showing signs of decay should be discarded as the rot will soon spread to others in your store. While checking don’t forget to look in on any dahlia tubers in storage. Again rotten ones need to be removed.
It’s never too late to buy some plants to brighten up a bed or line a path. Garden centres will still have a selection of polyanthus, primulas and pansies. Choose the best, strongest plants. If you choose ones with lots of buds then you will get flowers for another month. You can also pot up winter-flowering shrubs to catch some colour for your patio. Again have a look in your local garden centre and try and choose plants with plenty of buds and no damaged or diseased shoots or stems.
If you have a range of shrubs in your garden then you might consider increasing your stock by taking hardwood cuttings. Just cut a 20 cm cutting and pop it into a slit you have already made with your spade. Choose a secluded spot to put your cuttings as they will need a year to catch and begin to grow. While you are in the mood for planting, January is the month to plant bare-rooted roses. These can only be obtained in winter but there is a wide range available. Make sure the ground you plant them is rich and well-fertilised.
Your garden will benefit from a general tidy-up. Clear away any dry foliage and consign it to the compost heap. Fallen leaves should be cleared, especially where spring flowering bulbs are about to wow us with their colourful displays. If your paths are made from bark, top them up now. This is easier when there are no plants flowing over the paths. It also makes the paths look tidier. Keeping a garden tidy as you go along is much better than having occasional spring cleans. It avoids the spread of disease and allows you to check whether plants are earning their keep.
If you are thinking about buying a greenhouse or shed, then January is a good month to do a bit of DIY!
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