There’s still plenty of colour to be found from indoor houseplants, a poinsettia from Christmas will give colour throughout January and February, so long as it’s kept warm and draught free. Cyclamen will give you colour right through to Easter whilst azaleas, miniature roses and kalanchoes are also a good bet. A pot of tete a tete narcissus or hyacinths on a windowsill will make you feel that spring’s just round the corner – much cheaper than a bunch of flowers and they will last longer too. If you have primroses in the house, once they’ve finished flowering they can be planted out into the garden to flower again next year.
Planning your Vegetables
Get out the seed catalogues and decide what varieties you want to grow – it’s always worth looking at what new varieties are available and don’t forget to use a crop rotation system to get the best out of your ground. Seed potatoes usually arrive at the start of the New Year and most garden centres stock plenty of different varieties. Once you get them home, put them to chit (allow shoots to form). Egg trays are ideal for this; place them in a light, cool and frost free environment and you can start seed potatoes growing in pots inside as early as you like. Onion sets, shallots, asparagus and garlic should all be available from mid February.
Maintenance jobs outside If the weather is fine and frost free, you can finish any jobs that weren’t done before Christmas, especially clearing up leaves and debris. Trim old leaves away from hellebores, this makes it easier to see the flowers and prevents the spread of disease. Prune wisteria now – cut back the previous years’ growth to 2/3 buds. If there’s no frost in the ground, you can mulch plants ready for spring growth in a few weeks’ time. If it’s cold and frosty you’re better keeping off the garden and making sure that you keep any vulnerable plants protected with fleece. If we do get some heavy snow, it’s worth brushing off conifers and hedges to stop them splitting open with the weight.
Use a winter wash on your fruit trees on a mild day before the buds start to burst, this will clear up any pests and their eggs left overwintering on your trees. Make sure you have a grease band wrapped round the stems, to catch any pests climbing up the tree. Prune apples and pears if you haven’t already done so – cut out any crossing or rubbing branches but never prune stone fruit (cherries, plums) in winter as it encourages disease.
January and February are the ideal times to turn out, wash and disinfect your greenhouse. Remove as much as possible and wash down any staging, seed trays and pots, and the glass, with a good detergent or greenhouse disinfectant. This will remove any algae, pests and overwintering eggs. Fumigate with a sulphur candle to clear up any pests still left that will cause problems later in the season. Having a clean greenhouse to start with ensures that seeds and plants get off to a good start.
Winter Flowers and Feeding the Birds
Look out for signs of colour in your garden. Plants such as hamamelis (Witch Hazel), winter flowering jasmine and hellebores will all be showing signs of colour that suggest spring is on its way.
Don’t forget our feathered friends, especially if the weather is poor – peanuts, seeds, fat balls and feeders are a good idea and remember to put out fresh water daily. Birds love the recently introduced specialist feeds – the robins and blue tits at the garden centre love the mealworm and sunflower hearts!