Rushlake Green Village Leaf

Gardening Diary - January 2012

" Better see a mad dog than a hot sun in January "
We should not look upon January as being an idle period in the garden. Though most plant life is at rest, there is much to be done prior to the great awakening when urgent tasks multiply and leave no time for pulling up arrears.
The sun's rays are getting stronger and the days are lengthening but January is often the coldest month, 'As the days get longer, the cold gets colder '

The lawn may need sweeping clear of wormcasts, if the lawn is dry this is also a good time to spread a lawn dressing, around four pounds of fine soil per square yard and spread about evenly with the back of a rake.
It is wise to check, on a weekly basis, all those shrubs, trees and roses planted during the autumn and if they have been loosened by wind or frost, to firm them in, this should be done when the soil is dry. Looseness around the roots is one of the main causes of plant death.

We may now start pottering about the veg. patch. Shallots may be put in near the end of the month. Seed potatoes may be set out now in a frost free shed or garage, eye ends up and left to chit. For onion fans it is worthwhile spreading wood ashes now on your designated onion plot. Cloches. We don't seem to see so many nowadays but they are essential for early sowings as they create an April habitat in January. Under cloches we may be sowing lettuce, carrots, radishes, onions, round seed peas and broad beans.
Cloches may also be used to protect autumn sown sweet peas in the event of an 'Arctic blast ' Assuming the veg. patch was manured in autumn, it may be worthwhile 'sweetening' the soil with lime. Any soil that has been used for growing crops will steadily get more acid within a few years and crops will decline in size and quality, a spreading of lime will enhance next seasons crops. Furthermore lime causes, dare I say it, a flocculation of the fine particles, namely that they join up to create bigger particles thus improving the workability of our clay soils. Important to keep manuring and liming at least three months' apart.

If I have in mind a spot for planting in spring I dig in manure or compost now which will give it three months to incorporate with the soil. This preparation is especially useful for dahlias which are 'gross' feeders. Much like my progeny at their porridge at the breakfast table. Herbaceous borders are all too often allowed to get overcrowded with old and tired perennials. Dividing, moving and / or replacing may be carried out over the next couple of months. Selected plants may be lifted and put aside. If replanting is delayed, some dead leaves or straw around the roots will protect them for some time. The ground may now be dug over, at least a spades' depth if possible whilst adding lots of compost or manure and a handful of bonemeal to a square yard, preferably in the deepest diggings to encourage the roots downwards. The work involved may seem daunting but is well worthwhile as these plants will probably not be disturbed again for at least three years and there is no other way of getting the compost down amongst the roots.

Towards the end of the month we will be cheered by the first snowdrops and crocuses reminding us that new life is just around the corner.

Content kindly volunteered by Ross Atabey from Green & Great Gardens your local landscaping and garden specialists. For further advice contact Ross on 07941 315214 01435 812 153 or visit www.greenandgreatgardens.co.uk