Although January might be the coldest month of the year – and recently we’ve seen some really cold mornings and a light covering of snow in some of the higher areas of Somerset - the days have started to get longer and the garden has started to awaken.
We spend a lot of our time planning for the coming gardening year and have started to think about what we want to grow and have already ordered our seeds and plants. Now is a great time to enjoy the fresh air when the weather is dry and sunny, and get outdoors to check your winter protection, stakes, ties and supports are still in place and working - particularly after Storm Bella!
We’re still putting out food for the birds both in our garden and at the allotment. where we’ve left some areas looking a little unkempt so as to provide shelter for the wildlife that we know lives up there.
And as I type the finishing touches to this – on January 1st - from the kitchen table in Frome it’s started to snow. Very, very lightly but snow nevertheless!
Happy New Year!
These are our Top Ten jobs for the coming month:
1 Recycle your Christmas tree by shredding it for mulch. That might be a task that’s beyond many of us to do ourselves but you can still do your bit by either taking your tree to your local household waste recycling centre or have a look online for local charities who will recycle it for you in return for a small fee. What happens to your shredded tree? While it will often get re-used as a mulch that some gardeners say can be really good for acid loving plants.
2 Clean pots and greenhouses ready for spring. We’ve mentioned this before but this is a task that can be quite enjoyable on a crisp, sunny day. We wrap up and take a large bucket of water out into the garden and make a start on cleaning all the pots that we’ve saved throughout the year – we start with the smaller ones as they’ll be the ones that will get used first as the seeds that we’ve ordered start to drop onto the door mat. We use a solution of vinegar and washing up liquid but you can use a mild disinfectant if you prefer.
3 Dig over any vacant plots that have not been dug already. We watch the weather carefully as there is a view that if the conditions aren’t right then too much digging at this time of the year can do more harm than good when it comes to the structure of your soil. That said we often find that a few hours of digging does help to work off any Christmas excesses and leave the soil ready for any frosts that we’re bound to get in the coming months to further help break up the soil. We often add some well-rotted manure to the surface to prepare the plots and beds for the months ahead.
4 Plan your vegetable crop rotations for the coming season. We’ve started that and have all of our seeds on order. In the past we’ve tried a three-crop rotation but this year we’re going for a fourth – potatoes, brassicas, legumes and onions and root vegetables. When we’ve got our thoughts together and our plan drawn up we’ll write some more about why we do it, what we’re growing and then how we actually get on!
5 Protect against peach leaf curl by making a shelter for outdoor peaches and nectarines. We planted a one year old maiden at our developing Mr McGregor’s garden the other week that we’re planning to fan train. Even though it’s planted against a south facing fence we’ll go back over the next week or so to give it the protection that it might need over the coming few months.
6 Tidy your shed! Take this quieter time to take stock of your tools and make sure that they’re clean and ready for the months ahead. Ours tend to get quite neglected during much of the season and get left in disorganised boxes in the back of the Land Rover! Over the next few weeks we’ll be cleaning, oiling, repairing and sharpening and then making sure we know where we put them. We’ll do the same in the shed – one thing that we’re thinking of doing is painting the walls white so that the elusive (missing) tool is that little bit easier to find!
7 Give your fruit trees a wash and get them ready for the spring. Back in the autumn – when the sun shone and the days were warmer – we applied grease bands to our fruit trees. We did that to prevent winter moths climbing up and laying their eggs. This year we’re planning to give them a quick treatment with an organic spray that is designed to control any eggs and larvae that might have already got up into the trees before we applied those bands. With all the leaves off the trees and once we’ve finally finished pruning them then we’ll choose a still day and give them a spray.
8 Get your secateurs out and have a prune to prevent wind-rock. Wind-rock happens when your shrubs – especially roses, buddleia, dogwood and hibiscus – have put on a lot of new leggy growth. We need to reduce their height by about a third and then prune to an outward facing bud. Then go back to one of the jobs we spoke about last time and make sure that those stakes are still doing their job and that the ties are still in place!
9 Plant some bulbs. Yes even now you can get some bulbs in. Some bulbs - like snowdrops, bluebells and aconites - are best planted now when they have actively started to grow as the already formed leaves can more readily convert solar energy into food for the bulb. It’s called planting “in the green”.
10 Check your tubers. If you lifted and stored any tubers then now is a good time to inspect them for rot and to make sure they aren’t drying out. We lifted the dahlias that we grow at the allotment as we know that the tubers don’t like the cold and that if left in the ground then it would have been unlikely they would survive the winter. We let them dry out, buried them in a tray of sand and put them in the garage. We’ll have a quick look at them to make sure that they’re still tucked up and looking ok.
We’ll update you with what we get up to throughout the month. If you have any questions or would like us to look at what you need to have done in your garden, then we’d be delighted to hear from you.
And don't forget that you can listen to us chat all things gardening on FromeFM. We're on every 4 weeks with our first show of the New Year going out 10th January. Blimey. Best get on.........