January Gardening Jobsi
What to do in the Garden in January: How to Keep Your Thumb Green in Winter
January is the start of the gardening year but it’s also the middle of winter: so what can you do? Your main focus is to check that your plants are protected in severe weather conditions and keep everything tidy for when the real work begins.
Fewer garden jobs in January also give you plenty of time to plan for the year ahead. Approaching your outdoor space with a fresh start and aspirations is the best way to tick off those jobs that you might not have gotten around to yet — or have been putting off for another year.
Here at Hedges Direct, we’ll walk you through all the things you can do in your garden in January, so you have more time for bigger projects later in the year. Our Managing Director Jamie Shipley also shares his expert tips for tackling your January gardening to-do list.
- Trees, hedges, and shrubs
- Garden maintenance
- Pests and diseases?
Top garden jobs to do in January
Trees, hedges, and shrubs
- Prune deciduous trees, shrubs, and hedges
Pruning can be a daunting task for many gardeners, but tackling your deciduous trees, shrubs, and hedges at the start of the year can actually make the job easier.
“Winter is usually the best time to prune as the plants are dormant and there is little activity within the plants’ system,” Jamie explains.
Pruning cuts can cause ‘bleeding’ — when sap leaks from a cut caused by pruning — but tending to your plants when they are less active can minimise this. “Less damage is caused, as opposed to pruning in the summer when the plant is feeding rapidly and the sap is flowing through its system
Some popular species to pay attention to at this time of year are:
- Fagus (Beech)
- Corylus (Hazel)
- Rosa (Rose)
- Malus (Apple)
- Pyrus (Pear)
On the other hand, it’s best to leave evergreens and tender plants alone as they’re vulnerable to silver leaf disease if pruned in autumn or winter.
Want to learn more about how to safely prune your plants? Take a look at our easy guide to trimming hedges and trees.
- Plant bare-root deciduous hedging plants and trees
January is a good time to plant bare-root deciduous hedging plants and trees. Even though they’ll be in their dormant period, the roots will still establish and grow.
However, make sure that the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged as ice can prevent the root system from establishing itself and could even kill your plant. Also, try to pick a day that’s not too windy, as the wind can dry out bare-root plants before they even make it into the ground.
It’s best to plant bare-root trees and plants as soon as you buy or receive them, otherwise, you will need to tend to them while they’re still above ground.
Here’s our quick step-by-step guide to planting bare-root trees and hedging plants:
- Ensure that the roots don’t dry out by keeping them moist. Ideally, they should be soaked for up to 6 hours before being planted.
- Remove any weeds or debris from the planting area.
- Dig a hole for your plant. It should be wider than it is deep, with the depth depending on the size of the plant (25cm deep for small plants or deeper for taller plants).
- Place the roots into the soil and spread them out. Be sure to keep the crown of the plant at soil level to reduce any chances of root rot.
- Refill the hole with soil, making sure the plant is firm so that it doesn’t rock in the wind.
- Give the plant a generous watering once planted.
You can find our full guide to planting bare-root hedges here.
- Check tree ties and stakes on established plants
For your established plants, their winter protection should have been erected months ago but it’s still worth checking that everything is working as it should be.Have a look at any tree ties, supports, or stakes that were put in place last year. At a glance, they may still appear to be in order, but winter and stormy weather could have damaged them.
For stakes, they can easily become too tight. Slacken, or loosen, them if needed and replace the ones that have snapped.Ties also need to be assessed regularly for signs of rubbing. When they’re too tight, they can quickly constrict the stem.
- Protect newly planted trees, hedges, and shrubs
For newly planted trees, hedges, and shrubs, the best protection is prevention.
“Make sure they’re planted correctly in the first place,” Jamie says. This means giving them plenty of space, support, and water.
“Cover the soil with organic material like wood chips, bark, or a mulch matting,” Jamie advises, as it will insulate the soil, adding a layer of protection against the cold and trapping in the warmth. It’ll also help to retain water in the soil during those winter dry spells.
For the branches, cover them with straw or bracken and secure them with ties to limit exposure to frost damage. If you choose to use a polythene covering over any of your plants, set it up over a wooden frame that’s clear of any of the leaves — contact with the polythene cover when there’s condensation can cause freeze or rots.
Wildlife can cause damage to newly planted trees, so you may need to use tree guards to keep them at bay. These may also help to minimise wind damage.
- Remove weeds around trees
In the winter, weed growth may slow down like the rest of your garden, but controlling them in the earlier months is the best way to reduce their growth when spring rolls around.
“There are all kinds of mechanical weed pullers on the market these days, but there is no better way to remove perennial weeds than with a good old-fashioned hand fork,” Jamie reveals. “Loosen the roots and manually pull the weeds from the ground. Good quality gloves are also essential.”
- Plant flower bulbs
There are a few bulbs that you can plant in January, but it will depend on the conditions of your garden.
“As long as the ground is workable, tulips, crocus, and daffodils are fine to plant in January.”
Tulip bulbs need a period of chilling to break their dormancy, so now is a pretty good time to get them in. Indeed, it is best to plant tulip bulbs when the temperature has dropped as it reduces the risk of tulip fire — a fungal disease that thrives in warm damp conditions.
When planted in January, these can produce a colourful display in late spring in their first year.
You can plant tulip bulbs when the weather drops. They require a chilling or dormancy period before they grow as it’ll prevent the embryo from forming in cold weather and can help to kill any fungal disease.
These are usually planted in late autumn, but you can plant these in early January as long as the bulbs are still firm and aren’t showing signs of mould.
Crocus bulbs planted in January are likely to put on the best display in their second year.
Much like tulips, daffodil bulbs will take root in spring and bloom later in the year if planted in January.
If the ground is frozen or snow-covered, you can still plant daffodils. Brush off the snow and dig through the top layer of frozen soil and nest your bulbs six inches deep into the earth.
- Place water and feed out for birds
Winter might be the dormant period for many species in your garden, but don’t forget about the wildlife that’ll come to visit.
Keep your bird baths topped up regularly with fresh water. If you’ve found that it has frozen over on an icy day, you can safely melt it with warm water.
Refill your bird feeders with high-energy food to sustain hungry birds throughout the colder months. January is also a good time to give the feeders a clean and scrub down.
For more ways to encourage and support birds, read our guide on how to make a wildlife-friendly garden.
- Manage worm casts in your lawn
"Earthworms are a very important part of a healthy garden ecosystem. They help create and maintain healthy garden soil by eating decaying plant material." Jamie explains.
"The casts are left as a result of this worm activity. While they can be unsightly, they actually cause little harm and can add nutrients to your lawn."
"The casts should be brushed and broken up with a lawn rake, before being spread out to incorporate their nutrients back into the lawn. This can be done very easily by brushing them or using a lawn rake to spread them out."
Worm casts tend to appear most often in autumn and early spring, but they can continue through winter. Use January to remove any casts that crop up at the start of the year.
"It’s best to take care of them in dry weather," he explains.
For more ways to spruce up your green space, read our guide to looking after your lawn.
- Repair your lawn
If the weather is mild, January is also an opportunity to repair any hollows or bumps in your lawn or turf. This can be done by peeling back the top layer of grass and filling the empty space with loam or evenly redistributing the soil creating a bump. Relay the grass by patting it back into place.
If your grass is frosty or under a layer of snow, avoid stepping on your lawn. This can burn or scorch the grass and leave black or brown footsteps.
After periods of heavy rain, waterlogged lawns may need to be aerated. Use a garden fork or mechanical aerator to spike your grass and fill the holes with a blend of sharp sand and loam.
Read our full guide to winter lawn and turf care here.
- Remove leaves, algae, moss, and debris from the garden
General upkeep of your garden in the earlier months will make it easier to maintain your outdoor space throughout the year.Rake and remove leaves and debris to keep things tidy and give your grass and greenery sunlight and fresh air.
Built-up moss on lawns can be loosened and removed by scarification with a rake and algae can be cleaned with a 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water.
Pests and diseases
- Bracket fungi
Bracket fungi are a sign of decay on trees and while they usually appear in summer, the bracket structures can be visible in January.To spot them, look out for fruiting bodies around the base of the tree trunk or on the main branches.
Species that are particularly susceptible to bracket fungi are:
- Fagus (beech)
- Fraxinus (ash)
If you spot the bracket structures, it’s recommended to consult a tree surgeon for professional advice. Catching any infection as early as possible is best as the fungi can cause branches to break or the entire tree to fall.
- Box blight
“Box blight is windborne, so it tends to spread more in wet conditions as wet leaves attract the windborne spores more easily,” says Jamie. Therefore, January is a time to stay vigilant and keep on top of good garden hygiene.
Identifying signs of blight as early as possible is ideal for minimising its damage, so understanding its symptoms are crucial. “If plants get box blight, they usually turn yellow and brown. The leaves will eventually fall off and the plant will have a patchwork of disease along its length.”
Watch out for brown leaves and bare patches on box hedges as these are usually the most common signs of box blight.
“White spores can often be seen on the underneath of leaves or on fallen leaves. These spores can live and re-infect box plants for up to 6 years,” tells Jamie, so carefully disposing of dead leaves is essential for reducing recontamination. You should also thoroughly clean any pruning tools used for cutting out any diseased areas after each use.
If you’re introducing any new plants into your garden, quarantine them first to limit any potential spread.
- Coral spot
Coral spot tends to affect the branches of deciduous trees, hedges, and shrubs so the pink pustules are most visible in winter when all the leaves have fallen.
Much like box blight, branches affected with coral spot should be pruned back in dry weather to reduce the spread of the spores.
Deciduous trees are also susceptible to cankers, so you can also check stems in winter when they’re easier to identify.
Trees in the Prunus family are particularly vulnerable to cankers, so keep an eye on your plum, cherry, apricot, and peach trees.If possible, wait to prune infected branches in late spring or early summer when the plants are most resistant.
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