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Gardeners Calendar for January

This month is usually when everyone starts to look at the garden and turn round and go back indoors -- however, you could think about those projects for the warmer months. By taking advantage of milder days a lot can be accomplished now. Watch out for the first snowdrops in flower and also Winter Aconite - a bright yellow buttercup shaped flower that you really canít miss.

Deadhead any flowering plants such as pansies to encourage new buds.

If a cold snap is forecast tender plants may need to moved inside or wrapped in horticultural fleece to protect them.

Itís a good idea to check over any winter baskets and pots. Any pots that you think might not be frost proof can be wrapped in bubble wrap to help protect the pot and raised up away from the ground. It may not look very attractive but it is cheaper than having to replace the pot!

If your garden is sheltered roses may also be pruned. Clear away any dead leaves from underneath to help prevent any diseases recurring.

Fruit trees can be pruned now, along with top fruit such as raspberries. Ornamental vines can be tidied up and secured back into the support frame.

Remove any fallen leaves from winter flowering plants as this could encourage diseases to develop on the plants.

The green house can be opened up on fine days to ventilate it. Clear out any rubbish that you might have missed, check for slugs and snails under pots and removing them can save a lot of plants later on. Ours go on the bird table! Check staging is still sound and treat any timbers with a wood preservative before the green house gets too full.

Broad beans can be started off in pots in the greenhouse. Seed potatoes can be chitted by placing them in a cool, light frost-free place. Place them in a tray with the side that has the most eyes pointing up. When the shoots are about an inch long they are ready for planting.

Seedbeds can be prepared by digging in compost and firming and raking level. If you cover this over with a black weed suppressing membrane the soil will quickly warm up. After around five weeks any air pockets will have settled and any weed seedling will have died. Seeds will germinate much more quickly in clean warm soil. This is a good method for making new flower beds as well.

Lawns are often forgotten at this time of year. On dry days they will benefit from having any fallen leaves picked up and any worm casts lightly raked into the lawn, but avoid walking on them too much.

Make sure all your tools are rust free. Check wheelbarrow tyres. Mowers and other machinery can be serviced now. Most service centres offer winter service discounts. The tool shed can also be treated with a timber preservative as well. Check that locks still work. Thieves steal in the winter as well!

Ponds that have frozen over for more than two days need to have a hole melted into the ice. Use a saucepan of hot water. Donít be tempted to smash the ice, it can harm the fish, keep the hole open by floating a ball or a polystyrene seed tray in the pond.

Bare root trees can be planted now. These can be up to 30% cheaper than a container-grown tree and will establish much more easily. Preparation is the key here. The hole should be larger than the tree roots by at least 10cm. The sides should be broken up and organic matter added. Knock a short stake in at an angle of 45ļ. Place the tree against the stake, and check the earth mark on the tree is level with the top of the hole. A cane laid across the hole makes this easier to see. Back fill the hole making sure that all the air gaps are filled and attach the tree to the stake using a tree tie. Even though it is winter donít forget to water the tree! Periodically check the tree tie is not becoming tight. Slacken it as needed.

Other welcome sights in our gardens in a mild January are early crocuses and the first camellia flowers.

Don't forget the hedgehogs!

Look out for our Gardener's Calendar for February!

Judith