January - Winter protection for plants and wildlife

We can now look forward to spring in the garden. Bulbs are beginning to show and even flower in early varieties, and there is a sense of renewal as the remaining leaves and autumn debris are removed from lawns and driveways. Whilst it may look tidier to remove all leaves from beds and borders, an untidy part of the garden can be a haven for overwintering wildlife, so try to leave some areas to nature.

Beware the cold days and nights to come. There are plenty of plants that will need protection from biting cold winds and prolonged heavy frosts. Layers of fleece wrapped around tender plants will help, or move close to a house wall or temporarily into a shed. Bark is a good insulator in pots and borders. Damage can also so easily be done from waterlogging, so it’s always best to ensure planters have good drainage.

Those fortunate to have a greenhouse can use it not only to overwinter plants but also to start off seedlings. Under heat, there are many flower and vegetable seeds which can be sown from now onwards. Summer flowering bulbs such as dahlia and gladioli are also available from January, but again protect from frost. In the fruit and vegetable garden, it’s a good time to plant raspberry canes, fruit bushes such as gooseberry and blackcurrant, and rhubarb.

As usual at this time of year, spare a thought for wild birds. Clean out birdbaths and feeders regularly, keep topped up with clean water and remove ice when necessary.

January is also a great time to prune rosebushes and woody climbers. Apples and pears should also be pruned now while they are still dormant. New growth will soon be appearing on ornamental grasses, so a haircut of dead stems will help to give a fresh look.

There is always plenty to be done – and to look forward to – in the New Year garden.

David Hogg

Buckland Nurseries

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