January gardening jobs
A new year heralds a new growing season and the promise of crops to come. Discover a new year of possibilities in your garden. Words Aaron Bertelsen, Illustration Alice Pattullo.
Jobs for January
It's that time again. Looking for some pruning tips? As a general guide, you are looking to remove any dead or diseased material and any branches that are crossing on fruit trees. With bushes such as gooseberries and redcurrants, the goal is to create an open, ‘goblet’ shape that allows air to circulate. With blackcurrants, the canes you are removing should be cut down to the ground rather than just being shortened. With all fruit, look to remove the older wood – anything more than three years old – and leave the younger, more vigorous growth.
While pruning, remove any remaining fruit from trees and bushes to guard against brown rot and other fungal diseases.
Good hygiene is an effective way of dealing with slugs and snails, too. Keep removing old leaves from leafy crops such as kale, Swiss chard and cabbage, and if you are growing in pots, check underneath and around these too.
If you have managed to get the winter digging out of the way, take the opportunity to have a general tidy up. By all means keep a pile of leaves and twigs for insects and spiders to overwinter, but this is the perfect time to tidy edges and get rid of any unwanted mess that has built up over the summer and autumn. Leaves can be turned into leaf mould and all other green waste added to the compost heap.
If you do need to work on the soil, put boards down first, so that you can avoid stepping on the soil itself. Old scaffolding boards are ideal, sprinkled with a little grit to stop you slipping. This will help to spread your weight and avoid compacting the soil.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast and be ready with the fleece if it looks like the temperature is going to drop much below zero. Celeriac is a great example of a winter crop that will do much better if given a little protection from the worst of the weather. Likewise with rhubarb and artichokes – a strong wind can easily blow away that protective mulch you applied back in the autumn, so do check and add another layer if needed.
Keep checking on any stored fruit and vegetables to make sure they are still free from rot and safe from predators. As the winter stretches on, so interest among the rodent community will grow.
Finally, if you haven’t already, do get your seed order in. If you leave it too late you will find the choice is very limited. Here's our guide on the best wildflower seed bombs for your garden.
Having studied at Kew Gardens and spent two years at Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in Israel, Aaron Bertelsen is now vegetable gardener and cook at Great Dixter. His book, The Great Dixter Cookbook was published in March 2017.
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