Your January Garden
New Years resolutions and a promise to work off the excesses of the festive period – that's January for many. Unfortunately for some, January 2016 is also a time to clear up after devastating the floods. Gardens will be low priority for many in the big clear up, and it will be little comfort to know that many plants and lawns will naturally recover after a few weeks. However, I'm sure that a little comfort is better than no comfort at all.
The temperatures this year are unusually warm and plants have continued to grow through the winter months. I've even cut the grass a couple of times to keep things looking tidy. Bulbs are growing quickly and the snowdrops appear to be a few weeks ahead of their usual timings. Daffodils are surging ahead and will be blooming early. Of course, we might get a cold spell (February can be nasty) but to be honest, I'm loving the mild conditions especially as the qualified electrician isn't booked to install electricity in my new greenhouse until mid-January. Once that's all working some frost might be good to knock out a few garden nasties. If we don't then we could be in line for a cornucopia of slugs and a rout of snails.
But my resolution isn't to worry too much about things, such as the weather, that I can't do anything about. I can however prepare for any eventuality.
Key activities for January
Checking and preparation are the two watchwords for this month. Your dahlia tubers, quietly hibernating in a frost free shed, might just be showing signs of waking up. This could be in the appearance of growth or as shrivelling of the tuber. If the new growth is only one or two shoots then rub them off – if allowed to develop they will form long, spindly stems that break easily and are susceptible to damage. Shrivelling shows something is happening within the tuber and this is best treated by lightly spraying the tubers with water and covering with dry compost. The water will allow things to gently wake up and develop whilst the compost helps retain moisture.
Any crops on store - I'm thinking the last of the apples, possibly potatoes and maybe stored carrots - need the once over to check for any rotting and anything that is mouldy needs to be thrown away to prevent infecting of sound crops. Preparation is necessary to get your seeds in sowing order so get yourself sorted with seed potatoes ( available in garden centres so act quickly to get the best choice of variety and quality) and if your greenhouse heating runs on paraffin, get an emergency gallon or two in stock. Ensure any gas canisters are full before we get any cold weather. It has to get cold soon, even for a couple of nights!
Hints and tips for January
- Ventilate greenhouses by opening the door to stop this mild, muggy air from encouraging disease.
- Hand pull those persistent weeds in borders and veggie plots. Do it now before they become established.
- Buy seed potatoes early to get the best choice and quality.
- Ensure all heating is tip top in the greenhouse before any cold weather.
- Keep putting bird seed and water out for the birds.
- Prepare all seed trays, propagators and warm compost indoors or in a greenhoue before use.
- Check crops in store and all stakes on trees and shrubs.
- Check heating systems work before they fail in cold weather
- Order seeds according to sowing times.
Q: An azalea I was bought for Christmas is dying off - can it go into the garden??
A: The flowers of azaleas will quickly 'go over' when grown in a warm house. They can be planted outdoors either in the soil or in larger containers of ericaceous compost. Knock the plants out of the existing pot, scrape at the dense mat of roots with your fingers to loosen the root ball and replant. Plants need plenty of water. If the weather turns cold cover the newly transplanted plants with fleece.
Q: My local garden centre has seed potatoes for sale. Is it too early to buy them? A: It's not too early to buy them but way too early to plant them outside. Buy them now to get the best choice of variety and quality. Then place the seed potatoes, the ends with the most eyes uppermost, in a tray placed in a bright, frost free potion ( cold greenhouse, porch way, inside next to a garage window) Shoots won't grow until it gets warmer and eventually, April onwards, you will be able to plant outdoors.
A: It's not too early to buy them but way too early to plant them outside. Buy them now to get the best choice of variety and quality. Then place the seed potatoes, the ends with the most eyes uppermost, in a tray placed in a bright, frost free position (cold greenhouse, porch way, inside next to a garage window). Shoots won't grow until it gets warmer and eventually (April onwards) you will be able to plant outdoors.
Q: Some roses I planted are moving about ion the wind. Can I stake them now even though they have been planted a year ago?
A: It's best to stake at planting time but it's a bad idea to allow un-staked plants to rock in the wind. They will snap or damage roots. Drive a sturdy stake into the soil near to the plant but no t directly through the main rootball. Tie securely and check after a week or so. Then check again in spring to ensure ties are not strangling the plant.
Events and shows to look out for in January
Snowdrops, snowdrops and more snowdrops.
The mild weather has been accelerating the growth of these winter favourites and will result in big displays earlier than ever. Check out larger gardens and local displays. They are great days out and wonderful walks full of magnificence, and you’ll be surprised at how many different types of snowdrops there are – take a cushion to kneel on to get close to the blooms!