This month in the garden

by Kerry Kirby

January

Cold wind and rain can often make the garden feel intimidating at this time of year. However, despite the harshness of winter there are plants to enjoy and plenty of jobs to be getting on with. This is the time of year when tree barks come into their own. My personal favourites are Prunus serrula, Betula jaquemontii var utilis and Acer griseum.

If the weather is too cold to go out then start planning for the year ahead. If you are having your garden redesigned think about commissioning a designer now. The average garden can take up to 3 months from initial consultation to completion - and even longer in the peak of the season. So if you start now you could have your garden finished for Easter.

Key Tasks

  • Shred the old Christmas tree - or take it to the local waste tip for recycling!
  • When the conditions allow you can start preparing the beds for the new season. It is important to avoid wet days and frozen ground as you can actually do more damage than good. If the ground is frozen you can still spread a mulch of manure or garden compost over the beds.
  • Cut back grasses and other perennials left over winter for their display of seed heads. Remove dead and decaying leaves from the crown of herbaceous plants to avoid rotting. In mild areas, and during dry spells, you can still lift and divide herbaceous perennials. This is a cheap and easy way to increase the quantity of favourite plants and revive the existing plant. On wet soils, it is better to wait until early Spring when the new shoots start to appear.
  • Continue with winter digging when the soil conditions allow. Now is a good time to improve heavy soils by incorporating organic matter. It is also a good time to check the acidity or alkalinity level (pH) of your soil. If you are commissioning a professional designer they will do this for you.
  • Protect tender plants overwintering outdoors by using either a horticultural fleece or straw.
  • In January you still have time to move any deciduous shrubs or trees that are in the wrong position or have outgrown their current home. This is a heavy task as it is important to take as much of the root system and heavy soil around it as possible. Even if you are not transplanting trees or shrubs it is a good time to prune them into shape and check tree ties and stakes.
  • If the soil conditions allow now is a good time to plant bare root trees and shrubs. Take time to prepare the soil well and be generous with the compost you dig in. Hopefully these trees and shrubs will live here a long time!
  • Finally if we do get snow it is important to brush it off trees, shrubs and hedges as the weight can damage the branches.