Bite, frost, bite!
You roll up away from light
The blue wood-louse, the plump dormouse
And the bees are still’d and the flies are hill’d
And you bite for into the heart of the house
But not into mine! -Tennyson
This is the month of winter vagaries, when the thermometer is a gymnast, up it goes on warm days down it comes with biting frosts!
Bulbs are poking up from the earth. This is the month the Gallanthophiles have been waiting for almost a year – The first Snowdrops! The gardens after several days of hard frost are now back to their bare bones of
Stems, trunks, structure and evergreens. It makes you look at any garden in a completely different light. Look for the stem colours on shrubs and trees, the texture of tree bark, mosses and lichens, grasses wafting back and forth with the breeze, frost on leaves and old flower stems, seed heads of herbaceous plants. Much maligned conifers and heathers come into
their own too, giving structure, shelter, form, shape and colour.
If the ground allows use a Springtine rack to flick out detritus – old debris from in between plants. The robin and blackbirds will follow you around the garden.
Take a moment out to visit your nearest garden open to the public in January.
Explore different parts of a garden you visit regularly or walk it in reverse order. Don’t forget to use your ears, listen to the birds, have a good sniff of anything in flower, step back and listen as I have mentioned many times
Garden centres and nurseries have their sales on, many take the chance to have a clear out –
Herbaceous plants at half the price and selected trees and shrubs. So some real bargains to be had for the discerning gardener!
Seed potatoes, shallots, onions, garlic are turning up in the garden centres, sure enough the signs of another gardening season to come.
“The gardening season officially begins on January 1st and ends on December 31st!!” Anon
Jobs to do:-
Prune Grape vines, Apples & Pears, refer to last months article.
Winter wash Apples and Pears, spray thoroughly now whilst the trees are completely dormant,
Dec – Feb. This is to destroy any over-wintering eggs of aphids – Greenfly. Products to use are
either Vitax Winter Tree wash or Growing Success Winter Tree Wash.
Clean tools, oil, sharpen, repair or replace broken tools.
Service mowers, strimmers, hedgecutters, blowers for the coming season. Drain out old petrol from engines.
Check any stored fruit or vegetables, dahlias and bulbs. Mice and voles can cause
havoc in a greenhouse or shed with anything stored, seeds and seedlings.
January is often a stormy month, so check ties for climbers, trees, stakes etc.
Snow on evergreen shrubs needs knocking off with a broom.
Frost on lawns - Keep Off! Walking on a frosty lawn kills grass!
Armchair gardening is the order of the month when the weather is poor. Go through photos,
create lists of things to grow or not. Look at seed catalogues or go on-line. Above all take the
opportunity to plan as best as one can with the vagaries of the weather for the coming growing
Forcing Rhubarb or Seakale, mulch around the crowns of the plants with straw, manure, leaves
and compost. Place a forcing jar/terracotta pot/black bucket up turned over your selected
plants. Don’t force all your plants, you should only force 1 in 3 years!! Commercially forced
rhubarb plants are thrown away as they become ‘Spent’. They are dug up, frosted and then
brought into forcing sheds where you can hear them pop and crack as the rhubarb grows,
candles are only used for lighting!! Check out the Rhubarb Triangle in Yorkshire, The High
Priestess of Rhubarb, and Janet Oldroyd Hulme at E.Oldroyd & Sons.
All my hurts my garden spade can heal!
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Only dig over any cleared veg patch if the ground conditions allow – not squelchy. Cover with
black plastic this will warm up the soil and also dry out the ground.
Spread organic mulch over if you are 'No Dig' on your veg patch. Check out Charles Dowding website…
Please keep feeding the birds and fresh water for them to drink/ bathe in.
A variety of foods will encourage a wider selection of species. Most of the berries have been
stripped off except cotoneasters. Old apples, grapes, biscuits, cake, raisins, sunflower hearts,
Nest boxes – Birds are house hunting already! Think about putting one or more up – not all the
same sized hole entrance either -25mm,32mm, 50mms.
Just to sign off…
The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies!
Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle…..
A seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl.