What Do I Need to Do in the Garden in January?
The New Year is here, so now is the time to prepare for the gardening year ahead with judicious pruning, early planting and indoor tasks
Ericas, or heathers, look lovely in early spring, and you can plant these now to encourage bees. Some, such as this Erica Carnea, will even bloom under the snow. They are easy to grow, good on slopes and do well in poor soil – they thrive best in acid soil with good drainage. Plant in large groups for a better display.
The garden is relatively dormant in January, so this is the perfect time to get your secateurs out before the sap starts rising in the spring.
If you haven’t already, this is the moment to prune wisteria. Cut back summer shoots to just one or two buds, and generally tidy it up. Other plants to prune now include laurel, elder and ornamental vines.
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Some plants are actually at their best in January, and Hamamelis is one of these – its sweet-smelling clusters of tiny flowering shrubs are a beautiful addition to the winter garden.
There are many different varieties, so you can choose anything from pale yellow, such as this Hamamelis Mollis, to deep orange, such as my favourite, Hamamelis x Intermedia ‘Jelena’. Don’t plant them too deep, as they can be prone to sucker and turn into more plants than you want.
You can cut the stems of Hamamelis and bring them indoors to put in a vase, where the blooms look and smell wonderful.
Check your fruit trees now, and take action to protect them from bird damage. Birds are a wonderful ally in the garden for getting rid of pests, but do make sure you feed them at this time of year if you want them to leave your precious fruit trees alone! Top up your bird feeders with nuts and seeds throughout the cold winter months.
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Why not make use of your Christmas tree in the garden rather than throwing it away? Hire a shredder if you don’t have one – or use one provided by your council if it offers this service.
Once shredded, use as a mulch around plants. This will help to retain moisture and suppress weeds. It works especially well around blueberry plants, which love the acidity of pine needles.
You can also add some of the shredded tree to your compost bin – but be careful not to add too much, as the waxy needles take longer to decompose than other garden waste.
Deciduous grasses, like these at RHS Wisley, can look wonderful when planted thoughtfully and tended carefully.
Some grasses, such as Miscanthus, start to look shabby at this time of year, so it’s best to cut down older stems to 1cm above the ground. This will allow new shoots to come through, as they reshoot from inside the older stems. The new blades of grass look lovely against tulips in the spring.
January is the perfect time of year to observe where pockets of frost settle in your garden. If you want to have a good crop of fruit, you must plant trees away from areas that can be frosty and affect the spring flowers.
This means it’s important not to plant them in lower parts of the garden, where the colder air, which is heavier than warm air, will always find the lowest level and cause a frost pocket.
Take time to notice where the frost stays longest in the garden, so you can avoid planting any tender fruit trees or plants here.
Many of us will have been given beautiful orchids or other indoor plants for Christmas and these can be prone to getting aphids, scale insects, whitefly or mealy bugs. The aphids will produce a rather nasty sticky honeydew and this in turn will encourage a sooty mould.
Prevent this by checking and taking action early. Don’t place houseplants near windows, as they prefer filtered light and a temperature of around 10C. Reduce watering and feeding now, too.
Sweet peas can be sown now, and if you have any you sowed in the autumn, you can pot them up. Make sure you put the pots on a windowsill or in a conservatory. You can put them outside, but only in a cold frame.
You will need to pinch out the growing tip after the first two pairs of leaves have opened fully. Keep the pots moist, but don’t over-water.
If you have hellebores, cut back the old leaves now to help the blooms become visible in the spring. Cutting back at this time of year will aid pollination, as insects will be able to get to the flowers. It’s also a good idea to do this because hellebores often harbour leaf spot fungal disease that can look unsightly.
Don’t be too heavy-handed, as you may destroy the flowering stem. Gently lift the leaf and follow it down to the base.
What’s on your to-do list for your garden this month? Share your tips and tricks in the Comments.