January Gardening Tips 2023
It was clearly a mistake to comment on the mild autumn in my December column. My goodness it was cold for a while last month. Perhaps it is a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted but here are a few of the things we do to winter proof our garden.
Chastened by the recent cold snap we have been checking our outside tap and insulating it with some bubble wrap. I have also seen foam used and, at my father’s house, an old jumper. Patio pots also benefit from wrapping up, to protect the pot from frost damage and to keep the plant roots a little warmer too. If you can, do protect the buds of magnolias and camelias from the worst frosts with a little horticultural fleece. These shrubs are perfectly hardy, but the flower buds and flowers can be damaged by frost.
Check that tree stakes and ties are in place, and climbers tied in properly to avoid wind rock which can damage roots and shoots. Firm in shrubs that may have been loosened by the wind. Look after the birds with food and water, and to prevent damage to your lawn try to avoid standing or walking on frosted grass.
Other jobs to get on with when the weather allows include pruning deciduous hedges such as hawthorn and privet. Prune wisteria sinensis, to encourage it to produce flowers rather than too much leaf. Cut back side shoots to about 10cm while the plant is dormant. and remove any dead or diseased shoots. Dig over the vegetable patch if this has not already been done and feed fruit trees and bushes.
Looking on the bright side, the days are getting longer and spring is on the way. In the meantime, even wet days and long evenings offer a chance to dream and plan projects to carry out later in the spring, maybe replanting a border or cutting a new border, or planting a hedge or constructing a pergola. What could hold more promise than the fabulous summer flowering bulbs, corms and tubers that arrive in garden centres soon? It may be too early to plant them just yet, but what a lot to look forward to in the shot of brilliant colour offered by lilies, dahlias, chrysanthemums, gladioli and a host of other glamorous blooms.
Seed catalogues also litter our house at this time of year as we decide what to propagate. Seed potatoes hold their own potential. Chit them by placing them in a box or some egg cartons in a cool, frost- free spot with good natural light. Choose varieties you like to eat. We usually go for a succession of first earlies, earlies and main crop.
While the garden looks dormant, looks can be deceiving and there is the guarantee of abundant new life all around, none less than in the emerging shoots of spring flowering bulbs.
I wish you a peaceful, hopeful and happy 2023.