Jobs to do in January

Sometimes the weather in January is so unhelpful that it is best to make a large cup of coffee, find a quiet corner and read through the glossy garden magazines and seed catalogues for inspiration. If you feel that you just have to venture out then of course there are many things to do to make you feel just a little self righteous:

During the winter much of my time in my own garden is spent removing the mountains of dead leaves. As we live in a rural area, leaves from surrounding oaks and ash trees seem to end their journey in my garden – in every nook, and in every flower bed, so removal is an enormous job…. This year I think we’ve filled over 50 black bin liners and filled several green bins and I’m still finding them. I’m sure that I’m doing the council a huge favour as these leaves would doubtless finish up on the road if my garden was not around to trap them on their journey.

I have made leaf mould in the past, but because the quantity of leaf is so large and as oak leaves in particular break down extremely slowly, I soon considered life was just too short. Although leaf mould can be great to break up the soil it has little nutritional benefit and I prefer to concentrate on producing masses of fantastic home made compost (to be discussed on a later blog) which does wonders.

Take advantage of any mild and dry weather (I know, rare indeed) and clear the final remaining leaves off the beds along with spent perennials, shrub prunings and even the weeds growing in these unseasonable temperatures. If you can’t reach the centre of the beds from the edge, be very careful not to stand or kneel on emerging shoots of perennials or spring bulbs.

Once each bed is clear I have been mulching with a 10cm layer of home made compost which will give spring growth an optimum start. Usually I would be mulching later but the earth is still fairly warm, not frozen, so any job I do now will free up time later on in early spring when things get a bit hectic.


As I have a greenhouse I have also begun to sow some seeds of hardy annuals which do not mind the occasional harsh temperature (as Him Watching the Telly understandably baulks at the costs of permanently heating the greenhouse). One such is Cerinthe major Purpurascens (common name Honeywort).

Jobs to do in January

Cerinthe major Purpurascens

Once you have this lovely plant in your garden seeds are never bought again as each purple bell drops large seeds at its flowering end and these are easy to collect. Because of this I continually sew these throughout spring and early summer providing a steady supply of plants to fill gaps in the garden. Cerinthe is an annual loved by butterflies and bees, a bit unruly for pots but fantastic at the front of a border or drooping over paths.

Other jobs for January include:-

  • General maintenance such as mending fences, cleaning water butts and cold frames, and cleaning and oiling tools.
  • Pruning apple and pear trees of dead and diseased wood and crossing branches (soft fruit such as plums should be left until the summer).
  • Pruning of most deciduous trees and shrubs
  • Planting of trees, shrubs and particularly bare root hedging
  • Winter pruning of wisteria
  • Planting of bare-root roses


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