Gardening Advice | January
Our resident plant expert, Phil McCann, shares his top tips as you head out into the garden this January.
Top January Gardening Tips:
- Check dahlia tubers in store
- Recycle your Christmas tree
- Put your feet up and plan
- Feed the birds
- Sow sweet peas
- Sow lobelia
- Remove molehills
- Move shrubs
- Remove algae from paths
- Keep weeding
Overview of January:
The excitement of the holidays is over, credit card bills flop through the letterbox and spring seems an eternity away. Well, stop being all downcast because the garden is bursting with activity, wildlife needs you right now and, to be honest, January is a warm up act for spring. Seeds, plants and buds are bursting all over the place. Oh yes, January is a month to cherish.
Check dahlia tubers in store:
It’s worth another check this month as rot can quickly develop and take hold. And it won't be long until you start the tubers into growth. It’s especially important if your dahlias are in a cold shed - that maybe is prone to being frosted? Check them all, push and probe to look for soft patches and if you find any discard the whole lot (drastic) or cut away the soggy bit and dust with sulphur powder to stop the rot.
Recycle your Christmas tree:
Don’t just bung your Christmas tree behind the shed for it to turn brown. Check your council green waste services who might be collecting them in to recycle, or even pick up from the roadside. Or cut into small pieces, shove them through a shredder and use as a mulch around your camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas. Plants that love acid soils adore a Christmas tree mulch.
Put your feet up and plan:
It’s the last chance to sit and stare at the garden, pencil and paper in hand and plan what is going to go where. Make sure you plan and order your seeds and don’t forget, seeds and seedlings grow so don’t fall into the trap of planning an overcrowded plot (like I always do!) Very soon everything will be growing.
Feed the birds:
Yep, here it is again but it is important. Bugs have all but disappeared into cracks and crevices out of reach of the beaks of our feathered friends. Worms have burrowed deep into the soil. Your garden birds need you more than ever. Mixes, high in energy for the birds, are available and fresh daily supplies, along with fresh clean water, will keep them all happy until spring and summer.
Sow sweet peas:
Sweet peas are tough and can be sown now for a display in early summer. Long pots or tubes are great or any clean pot filled with a quality multipurpose compost is fine. Pop the seeds in, pushing them an inch into the compost, and fill in with more compost. Pots can be placed in a cold greenhouse or cold frame. Seedlings will appear after around a fortnight.
They may be the iconic plant of summer baskets and containers but if you want to grow your own from seed, you need to act now! Sow the tiny seeds on the surface of compost in trays and put the whole lot in a heated propagator. After a fortnight the seedlings will appear and then you start the process of pricking them out, lifting little clumps together, into larger pots. Then grow them on, get them used to the outside world and plant out when there’s no more chance of frost.
Molehills don’t bother you until a line of them appear in your lawn. Then it’s sleepless nights. The soil is actually fantastic and once upon a time, used in potting compost mixes (you don’t have any bugs in there and weed seeds are usually absent as the soil is from beneath the surface) You can still collect and use in containers, or wait for a dry day and brush them away. They do start to appear around now as the mole mating season begins to pep up.
If your new Christmas spade and fork are calling you and the soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged, you can still move shrubs. It may be a case of a shrub being in the wrong place, growing too large for its spot, a complete redesign of the garden or you simply have to get those stainless-steel blades dirty. Do it carefully, plant well by firming the shrub in. As the plants are in hibernation, they shouldn’t notice that they have been moved.
Remove algae from paths:
The daylength is getting longer but the sun is still weak and low - and areas of paths and patios may well be targets for algal growth. This becomes slippy. So, pressure wash all hard surfaces in readiness for spring and increased footfall. Just make sure you pressure wash when the weather forecast isn’t predicting freezing conditions.
If you keep weeding and turning the soil over in your veg patch more weeds will appear. And that’s good. Keep up this cycle and the weeds will all but disappear by the time the busy outdoor sowing time arrives. It’s a nice quick job to keep warm on a winter's day anyway.