Mahonia in Winter

Mahonia in Winter

It may snow, it may be wet, it may be cold or it may be mild, whatever the weather there are still jobs to do in the garden in January, and a perfect excuse to get outside and work off some of the excesses of the festive period!

Here is a list of important jobs to do this month.

  • Dig over heavy soil when the weather allows.
  • Turn the compost heap.
  • Cover soil with fleece of cloches to warm if you plan to sow early crops.
  • Remove last year’s foliage from Lenten roses (Helleborus x hybridus). This reveals the delicate blooms and reduces the carrying over of fungal disease hellebore leaf spot.
  • Remove any damaged branches from trees and shrubs.
  • This is an ideal time to prune many deciduous trees. The lack of leaves helps you assess shape and identify any diseased branches to remove.
  • Continue pruning apple and pear trees grown as freestanding bushes or standards.
  • Cut back stems of the herbaceous perennials to ground level if they are looking tatty or diseased. Standing on planks when working helps prevent soil becoming compacted.
  • Plant deciduous hedges and bare rooted trees and shrubs.
  • Plant roses if the soil is not too wet or cold.
  • For an earlier harvest, start forcing rhubarb by covering crowns with a layer of straw and a forcing jar, upturned plant pot or bucket.
  • Clean out the garden shed.
  • Make sure that birds have food and water.
  • Clear out the crowns of plants of damp leaves.
  • Order seeds and summer-flowering bulbs.
  • Pot on autumn-sown sweet peas into 7.5cm (3in) pots if the roots are circling inside smaller containers.
  • Protect plants vulnerable to wind and cold.
  • Prune wisteria and other vigorous climbers. For Wisteria this can be done this month or next, shortening shoots that were pruned last summer to two to three buds from older wood.
  • Take hardwood cuttings of trees and shrubs.
  • Take root cuttings from perennials.
  • Inspect stored tubers, such as Canna and Dahlia, for signs of rot. Throw out soft or unhealthy ones.
  • Aerate lawns to improve drainage.
  • Keep small area of ponds free from ice.
  • Sow early crops such as onions, cauliflowers, leeks and lettuce under cover.
  • Seed potatoes can be chitted from now onwards. Place in trays or boxes; store in light, cool, frost-free spot.
  • If you have had a problem with fruit aphids, spray trees and bushes with a plant oil winter wash to destroy overwintering eggs; note this will not give control against woolly aphid.
  • Take care not to overwater citrus plants during winter, as this can cause yellowing foliage and loss of leaves. Allow soil to dry out partially between waterings.
  • Service the lawn mower.
  • Repair any damaged fences, trellis, outbuildings.
  • Keep a notebook handy as this is a good time to record details of any planned changes to the garden.

Gardening for Wildlife

  • Keep birdbaths from freezing by floating a small object, such as a ball, in the water. Use warm water to melt a covering of ice.
  • Consider adding winter-flowering plants for pollinators to your garden. Sarcoccoca confusa, Clematis cirrhosa and hellebores can be planted now if the ground is not waterlogged or frozen.
  • If you haven’t already done so, clean out bird boxes ready for the season ahead. Birds may be using nest boxes overnight for roosting, so do this in the middle of the day.