Jo’s Garden Corner – January

There are jobs you can carry out at this time of year. It is fine to prune fruit trees in cold but not frosty weather. You can also prune hardy foliage plants now, too. Newly arrived bare root roses and fruit trees can be “heeled in” by covering the roots in compost in a container in a cool, frost-free place until the ground defrosts. Remove any snow-damaged branches from shrubs and small trees, cutting cleanly back to a healthy branch or the trunk. If in doubt of how to manage dead or damaged branches of larger trees, consult a qualified arboriculturalist or tree surgeon. If you haven’t yet got around to planting bulbs such as tulips, they can still be planted as long as they are firm and mould-free and the ground is not too hard.

Bear in mind that once plants in containers have frozen, it’s too late to bubble-wrap them for protection. Move them to a sheltered spot near the house or into a light shed or garage. Keep plants protected under fleece or in a frame until they can be liberated. Freeze and thaw together are lethal in combination, so the drier conditions of a frame will minimise damage. The books say to start forcing rhubarb in January, but you may wish to wait for a month and mulch it in readiness. It will need its reserves to provide you with that all important crumble filling. A white frost looks very pretty, but never walk across a lawn until it is thawed or you will leave blackened footprints where the grass bruises. Netting is a worthwhile precaution when birds’ wild food is scarce.

Pigeons can decimate winter greens, and even tits are known to strip the buds from primroses and polyanthus.  If your pond freezes over do not worry that you need to break the ice as oxygen will still be available for wildlife and plants. Fish may benefit from extra oxygen, so keep the pump running if you have one to prevent freezing. Finally remember our little feathered friends and try to feed the birds during the cold wintry months.  Finally sort out that potting shed. Start by setting aside tools that need sharpening. Cut down old canes and turn them into markers, and put the mower in for a service before the grass starts growing. Go through old seed, re-order, and any that is out of date can be scattered on an orphaned piece of ground. Sow anything that needs the winter action of frost to break seed dormancy. Greenhouses too should be cleaned.  Throw away any dying plants to avoid spreading disease. Scrub staging and floors to banish overwintering pests and diseases.