January is often the coldest and one of the wettest months in the year with only limited opportunities to work in the garden. When weather allows, aim to repair wooden structures, patios, arches and paths. Send away for seed catalogues if you do not already possess them. Make use of the time available by planning the flower beds for the forthcoming year.
Order the seed without delay (often seedsmen do not have sufficient supplies of the most popular lines to meet the demand). Keep a sharp lookout for frosts these often occur on clear nights when there are no clouds to keep the heat in. Provide extra temporary protection. In the cold greenhouse, plants can be protected overnight by draping newspaper over them.
Tidy the flower beds. Following a relatively dry spell, lawns may be cut providing they are not frosted. Put the mower on the highest setting. Complete the removal of any foliage that has not been trimmed earlier. Fork the ground between shrubs and herbaceous plants. The crowns of semi-tender plants should be protected with a generous layer of mulch or straw, or with cloches.
Towards the end of the month make the first sowings of antirrhinums, aquilegia, Begonia semperflorens and B. tuberosa, Cineraria maritima, fuchsias, gloxinias, impatiens (New Guinea hybrids), lobelia (bedding), pelargoniums, petunias, salvias, statice, streptocarpus and sweet peas.
Examine gladioli, begonia, dahlia and canna tubers and roots, discarding any showing signs of decay or fungal infection. Remove dead leaves from fuchsias to allow circulation of the air.
Providing the ground is not frozen or waterlogged, the following fruit trees and bushes may be planted: apples, blueberries, cherries, red, white and blackcurrants, damsons, gooseberries, pears, plums, tayberries, worcesterberries. Continue to winter-prune all fruit except those with hard stones, and to spray with winter wash.
Greenhouse and indoors
Bring forced bulbs into cool, light conditions when the buds have cleared the neck of the bulb.
Cyclamen and primulas must be kept relatively cool, 10°C/50°F, in an atmosphere which is not too dry (stand them over wet gravel where grown in centrally heated rooms). Schizanthus should be watered freely and given a weekly feed while in flower. On dry days, ventilate the greenhouse during frost-free periods.
Switch the pond heater during times when frost warnings are given or if there is a cloudless sky. If you do not possess a heater, place a rubber ball in the pond, which will stop the surface completely freezing over. Should the pond freeze over, immediately thaw an area as described in December.
Deciduous trees, shrubs and hedges can be planted this month providing the ground is neither frozen nor waterlogged. Bare-rooted trees should be protected with hessian and stored in a frost free place untilsuitable planting conditions occur.Prune deciduous trees. Shake snowfrom conifers to stop the weight from damaging the branches; check greenhouses and fruit cages for snow-loading at the same time.
Continue to winter-dig as the weather allows.
Plant-shallots. The first sowing of early peas should be made, as long as you have cloches. Place the cloches over the ground a fortnight before sowing the seed to warm the soil. Sow one of the early varieties such as ‘Feltham’s First’.
Place rhubarb roots for forcing under a box or chimney pot beneath the greenhouse staging. Roots of mint can be lifted and forced in large flower pots filled with loam. Force chicory and sea kale. Check all fruit and vegetables for any signs of decay or fungal infection.