A new year means new beginnings, reinvigorated purpose and the gradual 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 is the perfect way to ensure fantastic displays in your borders, and achieve 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 your 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 so it is important to incorporate an annual rotational 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.
- Cut back the dead stems of perennial plants, taking care not to damage any new growth that may be emerging.
- Prune Wisteria by taking summer side shoots back to two or three buds.
- Prune rose bushes by cutting directly above outward-facing buds, removing any dead, diseased or crossing stems.
- Hellebore leaf spot is a fungal disease which creates brown spots on leaves and stems and, at this time of year, it is a good idea to remove effected foliage. As well as getting rid of unsightly leaves, this will also make room for the emerging flowers, enabling them to be displayed at their very best.
- Feed fruit trees and bushes by gently hoeing sulphate of potash around the base of your plants. Follow the feed guidelines and don’t be tempted to overfeed as this can cause damage. It’s also a good idea to mulch after feeding as this will help to lock in moisture, suppress weeds and offer some winter protection if severe weather sets in.
- Check winter protection such as stakes, ties and supports, particularly after any severe weather.
- Remove yellowing leaves from brassica plants as they can harbour pests and diseases.
- If you are planning to grow early peas, you can begin to prepare the soil by using a cloche to warm the ground a few weeks before sowing.
- 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 and allow some areas of the garden to remain uncut as this will benefit overwintering insects and animals.
(Blog post written by Jo Chamberlain)