January in the garden

Thursday, 17 January 2019  |  Alison

January in the garden

Often, January is a month that gets lost in all the ‘New Year New Me’ health and weight loss resolutions and contemplation's for a more feasible work/life balance. Real life then sets in and for the most part we realise things will go on mostly as before whether we have another biscuit or not.

That is not to say that it is not worth doing a New Year list. I have done one myself but apart from taking time to walk more often, mine is pretty much all garden related – dig borders, order plants and new gardening attire, move pots, manure veg patch, sow seeds and this year I really will make time to visit all four RHS gardens. You get the picture.

For many though, the short, dark, bleak days of winter can be a little overwhelming. But there is much to look forward to in the garden.  Already daylight hours are increasing and so far January has been relatively mild. There is no better thing for the soul (my soul anyway) than getting into the garden, especially in the colder months, every day for half an hour. It is never half an hour though – more like two hours if the temperature isn’t too cold and the wind biting.  

Even ten minutes’ walk round to check all is well is a must for me, particularly in January, to glimpse green shoots of spring bulbs appearing and (note to self) wishing I had popped a label into the ground where I buried the dwarf Iris reticulata  bulbs. Hey ho, they will make themselves known soon enough.

Check out these timely jobs to be doing in January –                                                   

Time to Sow -                                  

Sweet peas - January is the time to sow sweet peas, if you didn’t get round to an autumn sowing.  Choose one or two scented varieties to give swathes of colour and scent in summer. Sow two seeds to a 9cm pot (or similar size deep pot) filled with previously watered compost and cover with newspaper.   Protecting them can help to deter mice too as they have a particular liking for sweet pea shoots. When they have germinated (about 10 days or so), and when around the 3.5cm height, pinch out the growing tip to encourage more shoots.

Chinese Mustard Green in Snow - These tasty salad leaves can be grown all the year round; outside in the spring, summer and autumn or under protection during the winter months on your kitchen windowsill. Order yours now and you could be eating them in a week or two.         

Time to Order -

Bare root perennials - These can be a much cheaper way to increase your range of garden plants. Once planted and the weather warms up, they will romp away producing flowers in their first season. Order yours now for delivery in March. We have an excellent range of colourful and easy to grow bare root perennials this season including Cimicifuga, Veronicatrum, Astilbe, Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ and Amsonia.

Time to Check –

Rhubarb -If you are lucky enough to have a rhubarb forcer shaped terracotta pot now is the time to place it over the crown of the plant.  Keep it in darkness to bring on growth to harvest some tasty sticks of rhubarb in a few weeks’ time.    You don’t need a grand (and expensive) pot though; a big plastic one will do nicely, just ensure all the gaps are filled and if you live in colder areas line the pot with straw to give more protection.  Check regularly though because slugs and snails may have found a new home.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Time to Prune -


Floribundas (cluster- flowered) and hybrid teas (single large flowers) can be cut back to around 9” from the ground if they need rejuvenating or are old,  but generally cut back to above an outward facing bud if they just require an annual reshape and tidy.  

Climbing roses can be cut back if desired to 3 or 4 buds every year on the stems that have flowered. They can then be kept at the height you wish them to grow.

Rambler roses benefit from having approximately a third of the old growth cutting back to ground level.  Then train the new shoots coming up from the base by tying them to supports.  I train mine horizontally too to make them more bushy.  Left to their own devices they literally ramble!

Time to Plan Ahead for Veg – Write down a list of which vegetables and herbs you would like to grow this year and then draw up a rough plan of which vegetables to grow where and which work well together and how long each crop occupies the ground. 

Rotating your crops is one the keys to successful growing, as this helps to keep the risk of soil borne diseases at bay.  So, imagine a square divided into four – it doesn’t matter what size it is – you would be amazed at the amount of crops that you can grow in a square metre!

One patch has potatoes, one has peas and beans, one has root vegetables and one has cabbages and brassicas. All you do is move the different vegetable groups around each year so that you are not growing the same mix of plants in the same spot.  It’s really the most natural way of preventing root disease in crops.

More timely tips to come in February so until then,

Have fun in your garden!


Brookside Nursery