Our garden expert Phil McCann will be keeping us informed about what's he's been up to each week in his garden with his Gardener's Diary. From how he's dealt with the weather each week brings to keeping an eye on that bird food theif, keep up to date with Phil and his gardening right here.

He'll also be keeping us up to date with all the gardening events which will be happening over the country, check in his diary and below to see what's happening near you this week. Keep an eye out, you may spot Phil there too!

Phil's gardener's diary - January week 4

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Gardening events this week:

11th January - 10th March - RHS Lindley Library - Pigments and Petals exhibition

14th January - 5th March - RHS Garden Wisley - Butterflies in the Glasshouse

26th January - Walkden Gardens - Japanese garden society workshops and talks

27th January - Great Dixter House and garden - Getting the garden ready

28th January - 2pm - Suffolk group - 'Growing for gold' talk


Top tips for January:

  • Ensure your greenhouse heaters are in good condition.
  • Remove any collections of fallen leaves that have nestled into the crowns of herbaceous plants.
  • Check tree, shrub and rose ties are doing their jobs – nothing too slack and nothing too tight.
  • Get all those shiny packets of seeds into sowing order to avoid the best sowing dates.
  • Prune apple and pear trees.
  • Make sure you have plenty of bird seed and clean, fresh water available for wildbirds.
  • Start forcing rhubarb crowns into producing long, tender stalks.
  • Clean all your pots, trays and propagators in readiness for the spring season ahead.
  • Secure cloches in place to start warming patches of soil in the veg plot.
  • Get out on a snowdrop walk and enjoy the beauty of winter. 

Phil's tip of the week:

“Avoid spreading salt and grit onto nearby plants. The salt content is too high for many plants to cope with and it can hang around in the soil. For your plants’ sake, take it steady when spreading.”

January in a nutshell:

I know it's cold, dark and miserable outside and the cost of Christmas is keeping you awake at night. But come on, spring is only a few weeks away, the snowdrops never fail to send a shiver down your spine with their inherent beauty in the face of adversity. Also, think about all that steamy exercise you can do digging over any spare patches of soil in the veg plot. It's enough to So get a refund on that rowing machine and get out into the green gym. January is the time to get cracking.

It's not only digging that occupies a lot of time in January - although turning the soil, pulling out weed roots and generally getting to know your garden is good enough on its own - there's also the seed organisation with the promise of all those bountiful crops and plentiful bunches of flowers. Pruning is also near the top of your to do lists ( you do do to do lists?) Apples and pears respond to a bit of winter pruning so carefully remove any branches that are crossing; have obvious disease problems; the ones you catch your forehead on when strolling through the garden and any that are spoiling the shape of your trees. Always use clean, sharp pruning saws and secateurs to do all pruning in the garden as it helps stop the spread of disease.

You thought that you got all the leaves up last autumn but inevitably clumps collect in the crowns of herbaceous plants. If left alone they can actually cause the shoots of your plants to rot. Get your Christmas present kneeler pads dirty for the first time and carefully lift out the leaves and put them into the compost heap. In fact, have a bit of a tidy around all your plants and check any with ties and stakes. They often work loose over autumn and if you haven't checked for a few years, may even be strangling your plants.

And of course, you are never alone in a garden. A bit of general furtling around will attract the attention of your local wild birds, especially robins. Put extra food out for the little fellas (and females) and ensure birdbaths are cleaned every week and filled with fresh water.

The weather and light levels may be dispiriting but with a woolly hat and warming coat you can really get the garden growing – even at the start of the year.