January can be a quiet month for the garden. It may seem like everything is just waiting for the return of spring but there is plenty you can do now that will benefit the garden later in the year. For January gardening we suggest following these three P’s: Plan for the year ahead, Protect from the cold weather and Provide for the wildlife in your garden. Read on for our handy breakdown that incorporates all of these elements so you can prepare for success this year in the garden.
- Compost: it’s the perfect time to begin a compost heap. You can utilise garden and kitchen waste (any organic plant matter) to make nutrient-rich compost year-round for your garden. One of the first things you can use is the Christmas tree! If you already have a compost heap now is a great time to make use of it as a mulch in your garden beds where the nutrients will benefit the soil later in the year.
- Tread carefully: your lawn will be very fragile this time of year. Frost can make grass brittle and prone to cracking resulting in yellow and brown patches in spring. A simple way of avoiding this is with garden tracking that puts less pressure on the lawn.
- Repair: winter can be a devastating month at times with weather wreaking havoc on drains, fences and planters. Now is a good time to take note of the damage and think of fixes and solutions for when the warmer days begin.
- Tidy up: it’s important to keep on top of the mess that can build up over winter. Fallen leaves can be cleared up and composted or left in a heap for wildlife.
- Inspect spring bulbs: take a look at stored bulbs and tubers to ensure they remain cool and dry. Keeping these stored correctly can be key to successful planting for spring. Having everything stored and ready also makes it much easier to plan for your garden designs and plant layouts.
- Plant bare-root: now is an excellent time to plant bare-root trees and shrubs as this dormant winter period provides time for strong roots to establish; this is great preparation for the plant to grow strong healthy foliage in spring.
- Cut and compost: clear away decaying perennial plant stems and add them to the compost heap. This will help the plants focus on the healthy stems come spring.
- Prune: now is a great time to prune trees to shape. Pruning serves two mains functions: 1. It allows the tree’s energy to focus on the areas of growth we want to flourish and 2. Clearing the weight and density of a tree’s branches allows more light to reach the remainder of the tree.
- Water planters: plants need water all year round, not just when the sun is out and potted plants rely on us almost entirely for their water supply. Make sure you cut back on watering in winter but continue to water regularly to help keep roots healthy. Make sure you have good drainage and wait for the water to run through and out of the pot.
- Prepare your soil: the sooner you can cultivate the soil in empty flower beds the better. This will give time for large clods of earth to break down and improve on the soil structure in preparation for growing success in spring. Try to work the soil when it is moist but not soaking wet as you’ll have great difficulty if anything becomes compacted and later dries out. Add compost to the soil to encourage extra nutrition and then cover with a good mulch or even a polythene cover which will help protect it from winter frosts and stop weeds from sprouting early.
- Prep potatoes: seed potatoes can be purchased in winter ready for planting in March. You can “chit” the potatoes as part of your January gardening plan which simply means encouraging them to sprout before planting; you can do this by storing them in a cool dry room for a few weeks.
- Force rhubarb: this means covering the crown of the plant to prevent light from getting to it. With an established rhubarb plant this can result in early growth that can be harvested when 20-30cm long.
- Apply organic fertiliser: a slow release of nutrients is perfect for assisting the slow return of life to plants and trees coming out of dormancy. Organic fertiliser will ensure this slow release as opposed to artificial fertilizers which provide quick shocks of nutrition which would do more harm and good at this point in the year.
- Temperature control: with the weather beginning to fluctuate January gardening in the greenhouse can be tricky. It’s best to judge each week or day as it comes. You’ll likely want to keep the greenhouse heated at night with a gas or electric heater, but during the day it may be warm enough to ventilate or even keep the door open.
- Clean the glass: you’ll want to make the most of what light you do get in winter and one f the easiest ways to do this is by giving the glass a good clean. For an extra helping hand you could also stick large bubble wrap onto the glass which will help to store and release some heat as well as concentrate the light.
- Move plants: overwintered plants can begin to be moved back outside once the sun starts to appear more frequently. It may be best to keep a layer of fleece or other winter protection like a cloche or cold frame with the plant so it can acclimatise gradually to the outside weather again.
- Plan ahead: now is a great time to organise the greenhouse with staging and shelves, making sure everything is accessible and ready for planting.
- Feed the birds: this is the hardest time of year for birds were finding food can be a daily struggle. Ensure you give the birds in your garden a hand by putting food out. If you can identify the birds in your garden you can feed specific foodstuffs to help them thrive. Some birds may like mealworms whilst others may only eat seeds or fatty foods.
- Provide shelter: giving homes to wildlife in your garden can be the difference between surviving the winter or not. Birdhouses, beehives, hedgehog homes and frog houses can be purchased for specific animals but you can also provide natural shelter with leaf piles, log piles and compost heaps.
- Maintain birdbaths: birds need water throughout the year to keep themselves clean and to drink. Make sure you top up your birdbath with fresh water often. An easy way to keep it from freezing over is by adding a small ball that can float on the top and agitate the water.
- Clean feeders and tables: keep your bird feeders and tables cleared from debris like leaves and branches so that food is easily accessible.
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Scott is a copywriter currently making content for the Primrose site and blog. When at his desk he’s thinking of new ways to describe a garden bench. Away from his desk he’s either looking at photos of dogs or worrying about the environment. He does nothing else, just those two things.