January Gardening Calendar

January is the time to protect your garden from frosts, strong winds and heavy rain. Check ties, canes, fleeces and other supports for damage and move pot plants to sheltered and sunnier positions to maximise light. Remember to keep feeding the birds in your garden, as food is scarce.

Flowers and shrubs

  • Cut down old sedum stems taking care not to damage new shoots, and clear away dead foliage from perennials (add cuttings and plant debris to the compost heap)
  • Clear borders and spend time digging soil deeply to remove the stubborn roots of weeds, especially perennials bindweed and couch grass; rake up leaves before spring bulbs start poking through the ground as they’ll need light
  • Prepare soil well before planting new roses and prune the tops of standard roses to reduce wind rock. Firm soil around roses loosened by wind rock during storms and bad weather
  • Collect and sow seed from garden shrubs and trees with berries
  • Add a layer of manure or compost to borders, around shrubs and along the bottom of hedges and fork in. Spread a thick mulch of bark over the crown of tender plants, such as fuchsias, dahlias and cannas
  • Snow may look beautiful but remember to knock it off the branches of shrubs, trees and other plants bending under its weight to prevent branches breaking
  • Pot up containers with displays of spring bedding plants
  • Trim back ivy and creepers from around windows and guttering, and prune summer-flowering clematis hard, cutting stems back to emerging buds close to the soil

Fruit and vegetables

  • If you haven’t done it already, this is your last chance to clear old crops and dig over the vegetable plot before things get active again in spring. Don’t forget to fork compost into the soil as you go to enrich the soil
  • Prune apple, pear and other large fruit trees before they start growing again to control their shape, as well as to increase productivity. Remove broken or diseased branches, crossing limbs, and branches growing inwards or downwards. As apples flower and fruit on old wood, thin out new growth to direct energy back into the flowers and also let in light
  • Lift and divide congested clumps of rhubarb, replanting them into soil enriched with well-rotted manure, then cover clumps with buckets or large pots to keep them in the dark and force early stems
  • Pick off yellowing leaves from the stems of Brussels sprouts and keep harvesting early varieties, along with maturing root vegetables, such as parsnips and leeks
  • Sow crops of broad beans, hardy peas, spinach, carrots and onions under cloches in January (and early February)
  • Plant new fruit trees, bushes and canes in deep holes filled with plenty of compost and pot up strawberries to grow under cover for an early crop
  • Order more seed potatoes, shallots and onion sets for later crops
  • Dig up and pot up roots of mint to force early shoots
  • Continue filling a composting trench with kitchen waste (no meat or cooked foods so as not to attract rats) where you want to grow beans in April
  • Check stored fruit and vegetables, removing any that shows signs of rot so they don’t spoil the others

In the greenhouse

  • Check your greenhouse heaters are in working order and that there’s fuel in stock - as often as each evening - for paraffin heaters during cold spells
  • If you haven’t already, line your greenhouse with bubble wrap for insulation against falling night temperatures and wash the glass to let in as much light as possible
  • Sow lettuces, leeks and onions in a heated propagator along with tomatoes for early pickings
  • Water plants sparingly and avoid splashing it around to keep the atmosphere as dry as possible and avoid plants standing in water that freezes
  • Bring potted strawberries, potted peaches, potted hyacinths and bulbs into the greenhouse or cold frame to protect them from the cold
  • Order seeds and young plants - sow hardy annuals, such as calendula, for early flowers and buy chrysanthemum cuttings or take cuttings from your own plants
  • Inspect stores of dahlia and begonia tubers to check for rot or drying out

Lawn and trees

  • Repair and re-shape lawn edges and don’t walk on any grass covered with heavy frost as you'll kill it
  • Sprinkle a top dressing of gritty compost over grass and add an all-purpose fertiliser along the base of hedges
  • Wrap tender trees, such as olives and palms, in horticultural fleece to protect them against very cold weather

General maintenance

  • Improve compacted soil by turning digging it over and mixing in compost, but take care not to walk on or spike any spring bulbs
  • Wrap insulation material around outdoor taps and pipes and turn off the mains water supply to prevent freezing and burst pipes
  • Protect large ceramic or delicate glazed pots from frost damage by wrapping them in bubble polythene or moving them into a shed or somewhere undercover during winter
  • Spread a mulch of compost over borders and around trees, shrubs and roses

Plan ahead

  • Give pots and seed trays a thorough scrubbing ready for the start of the sowing season
  • Order bulbs, corms and tubers for summer flowers, including dahlias, canna lilies, gladioli, eucomis and lilies

Little green fingers

  • This is another month for children to top up bird baths with fresh water and melt ice with warm water on frosty days. They can keep putting out bread crusts, peanuts and seeds to stop birds going hungry and keep an eye out for cute sparrows and blue tits.
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