The start of a new year heralds the lengthening of days, the ideal time to begin planning for the growing season ahead. A little thought and preparation at this stage of the year can ensure fantastic displays in your borders and enviable success in the vegetable plot.
- If you are planning to reuse your plant pots then it is a good idea to clean them thoroughly with a disinfectant wash. Salt deposits from soils can build up and damage plants, as can any diseases previous plants may have been harbouring.
- Use the colder winter days to order your plants and seeds; try to ensure a successional display so pay heed to flowering times.
- Plan your vegetable garden. Repeatedly growing the same crop in the same bed can lead to a build up of pests and diseases. It is therefore important to incorporate an annual rotation system.
- Start forcing rhubarb. Clear weeds from the base of an established crown and cover with a large pot, bucket or decorative rhubarb forcer. New, tender stems should be ready to harvest in 8 weeks. Try to avoid forcing the same plant each year; it is a good idea to carry out the process in alternate years. Also ensure that you are forcing an established crown as a newly planted crown may not have the energy to provide you with the results you want while it is establishing.
- Cut back the dead stems of perennial plants.
- Leave some areas of the garden uncut as it is beneficial for overwintering insects and animals.
- Check winter protection such as stakes, ties and supports, particularly after any severe weather.
- If the soil is not waterlogged or too frozen to work, now is a good time to plant bare root hedging, trees and shrubs.
- Keep providing water and feed for the birds.