January Jobs in The Garden

Prune apple & pear trees
The winter period is quite a good time of year to prune your apple and pear trees as they are now dormant. Trim back to one or two buds, thin out branches that are congested or rubbing against other branches. By doing these jobs you will increase the  light and air flow through the tree. Remove any "mummified" fruits still hanging on your trees as these can be a source of rot going into the new season.

Despite it being January there may still be plenty to harvest, Leeks may well be standing ready but if a sustained freeze is expected then you can dig a few up and heel them in to dug ground. Parsnips and swedes in the ground can also come up when you are ready, but until then cover them over with fleece or straw to stop them freezing solid into the ground. The cabbage family should be providing some sustenance and beet leaves (perpetual spinach) and chards will be available. On a sunny day it is worth emptying your potato sacks and check for any that are starting to rot before it spread

Protect tender plants
Tender perennials such as Cordylines and Fuchsia should be kept out of the frost, so bring them into the green house or conservatory.

Brush heavy snow off trees
If you get a heavy snow fall then brush shrubs and conifers with a broom to prevent branches getting damaged.

If the ground is now frozen finish off any digging over you still need to do.

Thoroughly clean and oil your loppers, secateurs, and other hard worked tools so they’re fit for another years maintenance in the garden. Start off by giving them a good scrub with some hot soapy water and leave them to dry thoroughly before wiping over with an oily rag to stop them going rusty.

If you dont have any (or enough) then this is a good time to plant in the green especially if a friend of neighbour can provide them to you.

Double Digging The Alotment

As well as getting ready with some of your winter sowing, this time of the year is a good soil preparation time, and one of the best ways to get the plot ready for next year is to double dig. Digging over the soil is essential for good plant growth. If you have a poor soil then organic matter can be added at the same time as digging.

The ideal time to double dig your plot is from October through December (i.e. now!), this is because the soil is free of frost and so can be left to overwinter, winter frosts will help break the soil down further. However if you leave it too late then the ground may be too wet or frozen and so will be be much more difficult to work with. You should avoid digging over heavy soil when it's wet as this can damage the soil structure and lead to poor aeration and poor drainage.

So how to double Dig?

Step 1 Begin at one end of the bed and dig a spade-head depth (approx. 12" deep or 30cm) trench across the entire bed's width, placing the excavated dirt in a wheelbarrow.

Step 2 Fork over the bottom of the trench. This is where the name 'double digging' comes from, as you dig twice the depth as usual, single digging. Add organic matter, such as garden compost or well-rotted manure, to the base and lightly fork in

Step 3 Dig a second, trench of a similar size to the first trench directly next to the first. Place the excavated soil into the first trench you dug. Loosen the soil at the bottom of this second trench with the garden fork as well.

Step 4 Dig a third trench next to the second trench. Backfill the second trench, loosen the bottom of the third trench, and continue this process until you have tilled the whole bed.

Step 5 Fill the final trench with the soil excavated from the first. (The soil from the wheelbarrow)

Step 6 Take a well earned rest and have a cup of tea! 

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