Traditionally the coldest month of the year, January is a time to keep an eye on the garden to make sure plants and structures are protected from the weather. As well as keeping food and water for garden visitors clean, accessible and topped up regularly.
If it’s too cold to go out then a bit of garden planning for the year ahead is the perfect way to wile away the winter days. Whether this is gathering new planting ideas, drawing up plans for landscaping your garden or that new garden building you’ve always dreamt of.
Quick Checklist for January Gardening Tasks
- Twelfth night falls on January 5th and is time take down and recycle real Christmas trees. Either shred it for mulch, or take it to your local Christmas tree recycling point.
- January gets a few short sunny days. Make the most of this Winter warmth and give your greenhouse a good airing when the Sun is out.
- Keep warm by digging over any vacant borders or vegetable plots that you didn’t manage to tackle in the Autumn.
- Stay off frosty lawns but take the time to tidy up lawn edges especially around flower and shrub beds.
- Inspect stored tubers for signs of rot or drying out.
- Give apple and pear trees a prune to remove disease, maintain shape and encourage a good crop.
- Start forcing rhubarb.
- Order seed catalogs and plan this year’s vegetable crops.
- Keep water and food supplied topped up for garden birds.
Check greenhouse and cold frame insulation
Even with the protection of a cold frame or greenhouse, plants can still suffer in the plunging temperatures we see in January. Add an extra layer of insulation to cold frames by laying old carpet (or something similar) over them. Regularly check greenhouse insulation and heater to make sure they’re working.
If you’ve had snow, remember to remove this from the roof of your greenhouse to minimise damage and maximise light levels.
Dig over beds and borders
If we’ve had a period of sunny, dry weather then now is the time to carry on digging over any beds and borders that you didn’t manage to tackle in the Autumn. Add organic matter as you go to help prepare the soil for the year ahead.
Tackle winter weed growth
Sadly, many weeds are as indestructible as cockroaches and able to withstand whatever method of suppression and control we throw at them, including extremely cold weather. Try to keep on top of weed growth as much as possible through hoeing. Any weed work undertaken now will pay dividends in Spring.
Care for your plants in pots and containers
The start of January is really the latest time (even in mild areas) to rescue tender plants from outside and move them into the greenhouse.
This is also the time to check that tender plants overwintering outdoors still have their protective layers of straw and fleece in place. Top up and secure where necessary.
Plants in non frost-proof pots left outside will benefit from being wrapped with bubble wrap, hessian or fleece (to protect the pots from cracking), as well being grouped together against a warm south-facing wall for additional protection from the elements.
Tubs and containers planted for Winter displays should be maintained with regular tidying up and cutting back. Adding a mulch of compost or grit will also help reduce surface puddling where a solid ‘cap’ has formed on the top of light compost. Keep an eye on the moisture content of your pot compost, as you don’t want it to dry out or become sodden. Aim for a nice moist compost to keep your plants healthy over the Winter months.
Check alpine beds regularly to clear weeds and leaves that may be smothering your plants.