Winter can feel like a gloomy time in the garden. The flowers of high summer are a distant memory, the rain is here to stay and the change of the clocks has put paid to any hope of working in the evenings. However, there is still much to be done. Here are some ideas to keep you busy and lay the foundation for a great spring and summer next year.
Clear up and shore up
Dead-head autumn flowering plants and prune summer-flowering shrubs before the first frosts.
Check structures are stable and if they aren’t then mend them now before high winds and snow do more serious damage.
Add cloches to winter salads to protect them from the weather and pests and wrap pots of half-hardy plants in bubble wrap or fleece. Bring tender plants indoors or put them in a greenhouse.
Keep off the grass
Although grass is evergreen it is dormant in winter, so avoid walking on it or you will damage it fairly easily. If you must walk on it, pop a plank down temporarily so that your weight is spread more evenly.
Look after wildlife
Birds will appreciate nuts, seeds and fat balls left out for them this winter. Remember to freshen up water regularly and ensure it doesn’t freeze over.
Remove any faded flowers from your winter pansies to stop them setting seed.
Cut down the old stems of perennial plants like Sedum – be careful of any new growth.
Here is a short list of gardening tasks for flowers during January. Prune rose bushes now whilst they are dormant. Cut back to just above a bud and remove any crossing or dead branches.
Cut back the old foliage from ornamental grasses before growth begins – clip them to within a few centimetres of the ground.
Cut back damaged, diseased and the oldest stems of brightly coloured willows, and thin overcrowded stems.
Prune your Wisteria plant now, cutting back summer side-shoots to 2 or 3 buds.
Shred your Christmas tree and add it to compost bins. Alternatively the stripped down branches make great pea sticks.
Hang fat balls and keep bird feeders topped up to attract birds, who will in turn eat pests in your garden.
Get rid of slimy patches on the patio, and paving by scrubbing with a broom or blasting with a pressure washer.
Continue planting trees and shrubs while they are still dormant.
Keep an eye on fruits and vegetables in storage and remove any that are diseased.
Check Dahlia tubers in storage and remove any that are showing signs of rotting.
Don’t let your vegetable plot stand empty and neglected over winter. There are plenty of winter vegetables to grow throughout the coldest months.
Most winter vegetable plants are fully hardy and will cope well with cold winter weather, but if hard frosts threaten then you can always throw some fleece across them to provide some extra protection.
Onions & Garlic
Some varieties of onions, such as ‘Setton’can be sown under glass in January and February, to provide harvests from late summer. However, you can sow in December to give them a head start, resulting in bigger bulbs. Viable garlic seeds are tricky to source, but you can plant young bulbs outdoors.
This semi-tropical plant is best grown under glass. Sow January-March under glass at 15 – 20ºC (60 – 68ºF), limit number of fruits per plant to 3 or 4. Aubergines are an excellent source of dietary fibre. They are also a good source of vitamins B1 and B6 and potassium. They are also rich in antioxidants.
CYCLAMEN are winter heroes that can be brought to flower from autumn to spring. The flowers come in red, pink and white shades and look fantastic in pots or planted under trees. Garlic is native to Central Asia and northeastern Iran.
Herbs such as Basil, Dill, Chives and Parsley can be sown indoors on your windowsill for winter use.
May be used for early sowing under cloches. A good source of vitamin C. Ideal for slimmers as it’s low in calories! Delicious with a cheese sauce. Protect cauliflower heads from poor weather by folding over a large leaf.
Here is a short list of vegetable gardening tasks for January. Harvest parsnips and leeks. If you’d like to grow early peas, place a cloche over the soil to let it warm up for a few weeks prior to sowing. Start chitting (sprouting) early potatoes – stand them on end in a module tray or egg box and place in a bright cool frost-free place.
If your greenhouse is unheated, protect your potato grow bags with horticultural fleece on cold nights.
Remove yellowing leaves from your winter brassicas as they are no use to the plant and may harbour pests and diseases.
You can start growing potatoes in containers under cover for a very early crop (Charlotte potatoes are a good variety for this). Potato Patio Planters are ideal for growing early potatoes in small spaces.