Rushlake Green Village Leaf

Gardening Diary - January 2011


' If the grass grows in Janiveer it grows the worse for all the year '

Happy New Year to all readers of this diary. Has anybody else noticed how the birds have started singing again? I don't know whether their light receptors are sensitive enough to notice so soon the corner being turned, or they are just relieved to have a few days of gentle weather after the coldest December in over a century?

During the course of the month the first snow drops will be appearing, soon to be followed by crocuses and other spring flowers, a reminder that new life is just around the corner. This means for us gardeners that it will soon feel like there aren't enough hours in the day to get all those jobs done.  We mustn't get carried away though, there is still alot of hard winter to come. As the saying goes, ' As the days get longer so the cold gets colder. '  So what can we be getting on with during January?

Working in the garden will be dependent on weather conditions, if the soil sticks to your wellies or spade then best to keep off it and attend to one of those endless maintenance and renovation tasks we all have.

HEDGING. During dry, mild weather it should still be possible to plant hedging, if the ground is too wet or frozen hard then keep them in a frost free shed, wrap the roots with straw and get on with planting at the first opportunity.

THE LAWN. Not much to do here at this time. When reasonably dry continue scattering worm casts with your besom and collect up those late dropping Oak and Beech leaves.  Some turfing can be done if the weather is open and fine, likewise some aeration work with the lawn spiker.

THE VEGETABLE PLOT. If manuring was carried out in September, you can lime nearer the end of the month and during February, the important thing is to keep liming and pre-season feeding at least a month apart. The application rates vary from a half pound to one and a half pounds a square yard.  There are many PH testing kits out there to determine the quantity, though if in doubt spread half a pound per sq. yard. As well as correcting the PH of the soil,  liming heavy clay soils causes, dare I say it, flocculation of the fine particles.  That is it helps to join the fine soil particles into larger granules, so improving soil texture. The reader will remember to lime only the areas for this years' brassicas.  It is worth doing this as cropping over many years will increase soil acidity and yields will fall. If you're in the cleaning mood give the greenhouse a good clean down, inside and out with disinfectant. As with so many things, cleanliness is key ( as I once learned to my cost when I opened my home made stinging nettle beer...) to preventing problems later on. Start chitting new potatoes. Place them eye end up in a tray in a frost free place. Wood ash is a useful free source of potassium and thus helps flower production and higher fruit yields whilst boosting resistance to frost and fungal diseases. Onions especially thrive on it, so if you have some, and some of us have alot by now, fork it in nearer the end of the month at a rate of half a pound per square yard. Wood ash should be stored in a dry place as the potassium can wash out quickly. Hard frosts can kill the tops of sage plants, cut them down to nine inches and new shoots will grow from the base. Thyme and sage can be divided up and replanted now. Ideally fruit tree pruning should be finished before Christmas, but if not should be finished off as soon as possible. Cloches can be set up now to start warming the soil in preparation for early sowings of lettuce, carrots,  radishes, and onions.  In sheltered spots sow round seeded peas, first applying bonemeal at the prescribed rate. Broad beans can be sown now too. If you've any spare cloches, cover these up and close off the ends with panes of glass. Shallots can be planted in three inch pots in the greenhouse and planted out during February.

Wood pigeons. Handsome birds, but not in farmers' fields or in my garden. Flocks of them visited my garden during the hard weather in December. My wife won't allow me to eat them on account of my once lecturing her on their reproductive habits; that they can rear young all year round, including winter and that they mate for life. School boy error.  Result? All my prized Russian kale has been stripped to the stump. Columba palumbus makes an excellent meal,  recipes can be found from the Two Fat Ladies to Norman Tebbit and all political shades in-between.

Check over roses, trees and shrubs planted during the Autumn.  If they have been loosened by frost or wind, firm them in thoroughly, choosing a time when the surface is reasonably dry.

Examine any stored dahlia tubers, if they are shrivelling -  put them in a bucket of tepid water for the night.  Dahlias are 'gross feeders', your blooms will be enhanced by preparing the bed now by digging in manure and bonemeal.

Check over ornamental trees and shrubs and remove any dead or diseased wood. Cut back any suckers growing from the plant base. If, no, when, we get more snow, be sure to shake it off your evergreens.

Whilst we endure these endless depressions barrelling in from the Atlantic we may allow ourselves some respite from the garden and sit by the fire contemplating what to give up for Lent.

Farewell until February.

Content supplied 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