Whilst January can often be the coldest month, the shortest day of the year has now passed and the sunlight hours are starting to lengthen. It can be a great time to plant bare root hedging, shrubs and trees at a fraction of the cost of their containerised counter-parts. You'll also want to think about recycling your Christmas tree before the end of the twelfth night and, weather permitting, starting to cultivate your soil for the spring. If your garden is looking a bit drab and dreary, planting some winter interest plants could be the perfect antidote. And if you can't get out for rain or snow, it's the an ideal time to plan for the coming year in front of a warm fire.
We've shared more details and ideas of what you could be doing this month below:
Plant Bare Root Hedging and Shrubs
- Many deciduous shrubs, trees and hedging plants, along with some evergreens, are available as bare root plants whilst they're dormant between November and March.
- Despite the dormancy, the roots will quietly establish and grow away below ground, ready to fuel a fabulous display of flowers and foliage once the soil warms up in the spring.
- There are several benefits of buying bare root plants compared to their containerised counter-parts: they're environmentally friendly - shipped without plastic pots; better value for money than containerised plant; and quicker to establish as roots are in direct contact with soil.
- Providing the ground is not waterlogged and it's not excessively windy, January is a great time to plant bare root hedging and shrubs, or at least starting to consider what you want to order.
- Remember to store bare root plants in a cool, frost-free place that's protected from the wind until you're ready to plant - a shed, garage or outbuilding is ideal (but not a greenhouse).
Read more about How to plant, grow and care for bare root hedging, shrubs and trees.
Recycle your Christmas tree
- Before disposing of a rootballed tree, think about whether you could plant it out into the garden. There's no guarantee but trees that have been well cared for in the home stand a good chance.
- Choose a suitable location for the eventual height/spread and water well after planting, bearing in mind that some types of Christmas tree can reach a height of 15-20 metres (50-65 feet).
- Cut trees can sometimes be disposed of as garden waste, but check with your local council. Some areas may also have tree collection programmes, but these are reasonably limited.
- If you have space in your garden, leave your tree there until March/April when it can be chipped into garden mulch. Another option is to dispose of your tree in a large pond or lake, where it will provide a wealth of hiding places for fish and water creatures - but ask permission first.
- Alternatively, prop up your Christmas tree near a bird feeder as a hiding place for small birds. You could string your tree with slices of cranberry, orange and bread as a treat for the birds.
- Avoid burning any part of your Christmas tree in a wood stove or open fireplace as the needles and bark have a tenancy to spit out of the fireplace onto the floor.
Read more about How to recycle your Christmas tree.
Plant Winter flowering Jasmine to add colour
- If your garden is looking a bit bare try growing a winter flowering Jasmine which will deliver tubular, bright yellow flowers, providing a beautiful display and colour to the winter garden.
- Winter Jasmine is a deciduous, arching shrub with dark green leaves and bright green stems. It's excellent for training over a trellis or wires, and equally stunning left to scramble over a low wall.
- It makes a great groundcover plant too, growing best when given space to ramble and climb and is very tolerant of pruning to keep it in check.
Alternatively, check our online catalogue to shop for more winter interest plants.
Start forcing rhubarb
- Forcing is a simple process that provides an earlier harvest of smoother, sweeter, less stringy stems that don't need peeling.
- It involves covering your rhubarb plants in December to exclude light and encouraging them to develop sticks earlier than would otherwise be the case.
- They can be covered with an upturned pot, bucket, old chimney pot covered with a wooden top or even a dustbin packed with straw or shredded newspaper. In fact, anything that provides a little insulation and warmth and shuts out all the light will do.
- An alternative method of forcing is to lift some rhubarb clumps in November and leave them outside in the cold for 2 weeks to break the dormancy period. They can then be potted up with compost and left in the greenhouse or a cold room.
- Rhubarb Victoria and Rhubarb Timperley Early can both be used for forcing.
Read more about How to grow your own rhubarb.
Cultivate your soil
- Soil cultivation (or digging) refers to turning over your soil to a spade's depth to bury weeds and debris into your soil and aerate the ground to avoid compaction. It can be hard work - and good exercise during the colder months of the year - but needn't be back-breaking if taken slowly.
- It makes it easier for air nutrients and water to penetrate deep into the soil for plants' roots to access. It can also be done to mix in materials such as manure, lime and fertiliser to enrich your soil or manage the acidity. Similarly, if your soil is typically wet or has high clay content, you can add sand when cultivating to improve drainage.
- The best time to cultivate your soil is between autumn and early spring at a time when the ground is not frozen or waterlogged.
Read more about How to cultivate your Soil.
Prune Apple and Pear Trees
- If you haven't done it already, January is a good time to prune open-grown apple and pear trees (excluding trees trained against walls which are pruned during the summer).
- Apple and pear trees should be pruned every year to encourage new growth on which new buds will form and ensure a good harvest the following season. Trees that are not pruned become less productive and congested with old branches and diseased shoots.
- Pruning is easy - use a pair of bypass secateurs to create an open goblet shape with a framework of about 5 main branches. Thought is needed in setting out the basic framework of the tree and reducing shoots by about one-third to a bud in an outward pointing direction.
- Make sure you use clean, sharp secateurs to avoid damaging your fruit trees.
Read more about How to Prune Apple and Pear Trees in Winter.
Plant Raspberry Canes
- Plant raspberry canes in a sunny site with a fertile, well-drained soil, slightly acidic to neutral soil. If your ground often lies wet, consider planting raspberries in containers instead as raspberries are prone to root rot in waterlogged soil.
- A sunny spot is preferred but raspberries will also tolerate partial shade. Avoid windy sites as this will make self-pollination more difficult and risk the fruiting side branches breaking.
- Plant your raspberries 45-60cm (1.5 to 2 feet) apart when planting. If you're growing multiple rows, space them 1.8m (6 feet) apart, ideally running north to south so they do not shade each other. Give autumn-fruiting raspberries the full 60cm apart if the size of your garden permits.
- When planting dig in at least a bucketful of well-rotted organic matter per plant and back fill firmly to eliminate air pockets. Mulch with a generous layer of bulky organic matter such as garden compost or old autumn leaves, avoiding overly rich manure which may burn new shoots.
Read more about How to Grow your own raspberries.
Other January Gardening Jobs
- It’s at this time of year that your gardens bird & wildlife really struggle to find food. Regularly replenish your bird feeders & bird baths to provide a source of food. They birds will return the favour by eating pests in your garden
- Brush heavy snow off hedges and conifers to prevent branches from snapping under its weight.
- Check tree ties and stakes to ensure they're still secure after any severe weather. Tighten or loosen ties as required.
- Cut back the old foliage of ornamental grasses before growth begins, clipping them to within a few centimetres of the ground.
- Wash empty pots with hot water, scrubbing them with a mild detergent, then rinse well.
- If you are itching to get out there, but cant see the soil for the snow, take time to sit down & plan ahead. At this time of year, you may only be able to venture into your garden to clear the snow, but there are lots of jobs we should be doing in our gardens to keep them in good condition.