It’s the start of a new year, and now that Christmas is behind us gardeners are itching to get growing again. The midwinter weather has other ideas though – there’s little that can be done outdoors when the soil is frosted, snow-covered or waterlogged, but on drier days wrap up warm and tackle some of the jobs on our list. And if you’re lucky enough to have a greenhouse, where you can shelter from the weather, you can potter for a few hours, preparing for when the weather starts to warm up.
- Protect container grown plants from heavy rain and frost by moving them next to the house for some shelter and extra warmth, or move them into the greenhouse. Lift pots off the ground to improve drainage by propping them up on bricks or pot feet.
- Remove heavy snowfalls from the greenhouse roof and from the branches of trees, as the weight can cause damage.
- If you’re storing apples or pears check on them, removing any that show signs of rot so that it doesn’t spread to the other fruit.
- Place a special terracotta rhubarb forcer, or a large container over a patch of rhubarb to exclude light, and in a month or so you’ll be rewarded with tender, sweet, pink rhubarb stems.
- Winter prune vines.
- If you forgot to plant containers with bulbs last autumn visit your local garden centre and pick up some potted bulbs and spring bedding plants.
- Cut a few stems of spring-flowering shrubs such as pussy willow, forsythia and magnolia, and bring them indoors. Pop them in a tall vase in a bright room where the warmth will trick them into thinking it’s spring and the flower buds will open.
- Check the ties on tree stakes to make sure they are tight enough to prevent the tree from rocking in high winds, but not so tight that the tie is rubbing against the bark.
- Cut back the old foliage of hellebores so that the emerging flowers can be seen. This also helps to prevent a fungal disease called black spot, which affects the leaves, from spreading.
- Start to tidy up borders, cutting back perennials so that bulbs aren’t hidden under last year’s faded foliage.