January is a time of new beginnings, fresh starts and hope for the gardening year ahead. It’s an excellent time to plan your vision of the garden, whether it’s to completely start afresh with a new design or purpose, such as predominantly fruit and vegetable growing, lower maintenance or a wildlife garden, or just a few new plants here or there. Doing small jobs, little and often, even an hour a week or less, can really help you reconnect with nature and the earth which is really important at this time of year- a time when it’s easy to neglect and forget our outdoor spaces. Take this opportunity while nature is sleeping, to tidy up, set right and plan for when she awakens…

Maintain & Protect…

It really is a great time to get your head around the garden and plan for any changes you would like to make this year. We see the garden in its barest bones in January, making it easier to work out what would go well, where. Its a great time to order in bare root trees for planting now, fruit bushes and seeds that you would like to try out in the coming growing season.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the New Year without a good cleaning session, and that can extend further than the house..

Give the water butts, green house, tools and pots a really good clean and disinfect if necessary, meaning less chance of disease in the coming year. Check that the winter protection applied to tender plants is still in good order, as some of the coldest weather can be this month and the next.

January is a great time to make sure all tools and equipment is all clean and in working order

Its more important now than ever to look after our native wildlife- consider leaving areas of the garden ‘wild’ for seed, and creating your very own feeders from kitchen scraps. A really great way of reusing oranges and pumpkins is to cut in half, fill with coconut oil and seeds and hang in a sheltered tree. Once finished the whole thing can be put in the compost bin, with no plastic involved at all! If you’re planning on growing peas, then be sure to warm the ground with a cloche where you intend to plant them. Many direct sow- but if mice or bird present a problem as potential seed thieves ( or rightful finders keepers) then you may like to sow in guttering or toilet roll tubes in a cold frame. Remember to check stored dahlia tubers for any sign or rot- if there is any remove and re-store in a dryer cooler area- and keep those house plants misted regularly, especially if they are on a windowsill directly above a radiator.

Prune & Cut Back…

Wisteria needs pruning twice a year- in January/Feb and in July/ August. This keeps the rambling plant’s shape and boosts flower production. It needn’t be complicated however – cut back summer side shoots to two to three buds, as this will make sure flowers won’t be obscured by leaves in the blooming season. It really does make a difference to this wonderful plant’s performance so give it a go- and if in doubt have a look at this handy video from the RHS.

The graceful and beautiful Salix babylonica which can be pruned now

Another pruning task this month, is ornamental grasses. Long gone are the rustling green showstoppers, replaced by dry, often unattractive straw like nests that need some attending to on a wind and rain free day ( unless you fancy chasing dead grasses across the lawn). Ornamental grasses fall into two categories- evergreen and deciduous. The latter are the ones that need more attention, so cut back the spent stems with secateurs ( they should look like brown paper straws ) avoiding any new green growth. Stems and debris can be pulled by hand from the centre of the stem, which really can be a quite satisfying job on a still day. Cut the clump back to a few inches from ground level, which may look drastic, but as long as no green new growth is cut, this is where the new shoots will appear and your ornamental grass will look fabulous when in full growth swing.

Continue to prune apple and pear trees, but leave plum, cherry and apricot alone until Summer- so to avoid silver- leaf infections. Dead head any winter pansies past their prime for continued flowering, and be sure to attend to willow ‘Salix’ that looks over congested. Sometimes it’s good to stand underneath the tree and assess the growth, cutting branches with v shaped junctions, as these are likely to be the weakest. Remember to always select a central stem, and then cut off all competing leaders.

Increase your stock…

With time still to order and plant bare root trees, roses and fruit bushes- consider varieties that will work well for you, and wildlife. Deciduous trees are always a welcome addition to the garden as they provide food and shelter for wildlife. Bare-root Raspberries such as ‘All Gold’ and ‘Glen Coe’ can be planted now. You can also order spring- planting crowns and tubers now, such as artichokes, rhubarb and asparagus. These may take a while to establish, but are perennials, and once they get going, they will deliver year after year.

Plant bare root raspberries now for tasty berries in the Summer

Why not plant some lovely amaryllis bulbs in indoor pots? They bring so much colour and joy to any window sill with their enormous flowers and lovely foliage. You may be able to find some now being sold cheaply, as these are traditionally given at Christmas, and often end up in the sale.Give them a new home and they will reward you dearly.

You can still plant tulips, but this is probably the last month. Be sure to plant them deeply in borders or pots for a fantastic display in March/April.

Sow & Harvest…

Even though its technically the dead of Winter, you can still start sowing the following in a propagator- owing to their long growing season and native growing habitat- Aubergine, tomato, chilli, pelargoniums, begonia, basil, petunias, dahlias and delphiniums

Outside in a cold frame you can sow sweet peas, sugar snap peas, podding peas, radishes, broad beans ( Claudia Aguadulce)

Even in January, there are many lovely plants to be sown

And on the windowsill, you can grow an array of micro greens, from herbs to kale- within less than a week. Click here for a guide.

Keep harvesting leeks and carrots, storing the latter in sand for a longer storage period.