Garden Maintenance in January

So there you are thinking phew… , that’s all the Christmas and New Year jobs done and dusted. The trees and the lights are packed away for another year. We’ve passed the shortest day but it’s still dark by 5pm so it must be time to put your slippered feet up and spend the rest of January browsing those tempting holiday brochures and ignoring the weight loss adverts.

If only….

January is actually one of the busiest months in the gardening year. We prepare for the always welcome arrival of Spring, in a few months’ time there are still some clearing, tidying and even planting jobs to do before the soil temperature drops and the risk of frost increases.

Most parts of the UK have had a pretty soggy, boggy winter. This means unless you’re lucky enough to have free draining soil you may have a little extra work to do to improve the condition of your soil before you do any January planting. Do you need to break down any thick clay clogs or add anything to the soil that will soak up some that extra water that is still hanging around? No plant root – tree, shrub or perennial – will thank you for abandoning it in a deep and wet water logged hole so take the time to prepare and improve the conditions of your soil in order to reap the most benefits once your new plant settles and starts growing.

January is a really good time to plant those special trees and shrubs you’ve had your eye on. The soil is still warm enough to keep the roots happy and hopefully help them embed before the temperatures drop to freezing. You can plant camellias, roses, azaleas, acid-loving rhododendrons (if you have the right acid soil) and other shrubs in January but take the time to mulch your borders first using either a good quality leaf mould, compost or well-rotted manure. The more you do to put nutrients back into the soil at this time of the year, the more your plants, old and new, will thank you for your troubles. And whilst we’re on the subject of forward planning and flowering plants, now is also the time to think ahead and order your summer bulbs, including dahlias which have come right back into fashion, begonias and gladioli. Bring any especially tender plants into the greenhouse or other warmer sheltered spot and if you’ve been coveting your neighbours’ snowdrops just ask them to give you a couple of plants which will survive being lifted and divided just as long as you replant them straight away.

January is the time to give that perennial garden favourite the Buddleia (or butterfly tree) a very serious haircut aka pruning and you should also prune apple and pear trees back to just one or two buds of new growth. Keep your borders and edges tidy and free of debris and detritus, which will otherwise increase the risk of disease to your plantings. Cut perennials down to ground level and dig out any dead and decaying annuals left over from what is now last year. Protect against any likely turn in the weather over the next month and any risk of damage caused by high winds by staking young or newly planted trees, securing gates and fence-posts and other boundary panels.

Oh, and this is also the time to get into the vegetable garden and plant your garlic bulbs…

See what I mean about January? You just won’t have time for those holiday brochures…..


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Tony Richards / managing director