January Gardening Tips – from Strelitzia Garden Design

Happy New Gardening Year!

Forget Veganuary; why not try Garden Plan-uary? When the weather is rotten, there’s nothing more comforting than settling down on a comfy sofa with a nice hot mug of tea or coffee and browsing the nursery and seed catalogues. Or if your garden needs more extensive re-modelling, why not contact a garden designer? You could have your new garden finished and ready to enjoy by the time the weather warms up.

On better days, there’s still time to prune apple and pear trees. Cut out any dead, diseased or dying material, and remove branches that are crossing or rubbing against other branches. Aim to avoid congestion in the centre of the tree – you want a nice open shape to let the light and air in. Last year’s growth can be shortened by up to a third – this will encourage new growth. Pruning helps to keep the tree productive and within bounds, but there’s no need to fret; left to their own devices, fruit trees will usually manage quite well.

It pays to check underneath any potted plants you might have now and then, as this is a favourite hiding place for slugs and snails. By reducing the population now, you can stop them getting a head start once the main growing season starts.

Weeds will still be growing on milder days, but much more slowly than in the summer, so weeding is a much more relaxed task at this time of year. If the soil is wet, try to work off boards to avoid compacting the soil. An old piece of scaffolding board, or similar, is ideal. Be careful not to squash any bulbs that might just be poking their heads out of the soil now. Don’t dig, plant or weed when the soil is frozen. And try to avoid walking on the grass when it’s frosty, as this can damage it.

There’s no need to cut back the dead stems and foliage that are still standing from last year’s perennials; they still look good against the low winter sun, particularly on bright frosty mornings. And they provide habitat for over-wintering insects, as well as seeds for birds.

Try not to be too tidy, or you might disturb the creatures that may be sheltering in leaf litter, under stones and so on. Frogs, toads and newts will all be out of the pond at this time of year. And you never know, you may be lucky enough to have a hedgehog living in your garden.

It’s still a great time to plant bare-rooted trees (including fruit trees), hedging, roses, fruit bushes, etc. (but avoid days when the soil if frozen or water-logged).

And remember, the weather might be cold and damp, but we’ve passed the winter solstice, which means the days are getting longer, and the sun is getting higher. In no time at all it’ll be spring.