January: to-do list

P10009871. During dry, quiet days treat and repaint fences, sheds, greenhouses, stakes and garden furniture.

2. Deal with slippery paths: wash and scrub paving and grit paths in icy weather.

3. While the garden is sleeping, prepare for the new season by washing pots and seed trays ready to use. You can sow greenhouse tomatoes towards the end of the month.

4. Plant heathers, especially Erica, for early spring flowers beloved by bees. I particularly like this white heather to brighten up a dark corner of the winter garden. Perfect in pots too.

5. Cut back deciduous hedging. Aim for a shape that is slightly wider at the bottom than the top – this allows winter light to reach the lower foliage more easily.

6. If you are planning to grow dahlias, start to dig plenty of much into the patch where you plan to plant them. Dahlias are greedy and the richer the soil, the better.

7. Seed catalogues/websites always make a cheery read at this time of year. Start preparing your wish list. I’m rather taken with foxgloves at the moment. Sutton’s Apricot in particular with their lovely, soft peachy spires. And poppies – this lovely, delicate mixed selection (papaver rheas ‘Falling in Love’) from Sarah Raven has also caught my eye.

8. Plan your veggie patch on paper. Depending on what you like to eat, try something from each of the four main groups – roots, brassicas, legumes and leafy salads. Ideally (and depending on space) each should have a patch of their own which you rotate each year. This rotation is the best way to ensure you don’t grow the same thing in the same soil and helps avoid root pests and diseases. Order your veggie seeds ready for planting later in the spring.

9. If you’ve already dug over your veggie patch soil and your garden is in a mild location with well-drained soil, you can warm it up for spring sowing by covering it with a layer of black polythene. To keep it from blowing away in wintery gales, weigh it down with bricks, stones or handfuls of earth.

10. Plant rhubarb. Plants should be positioned at least 1m apart. Set the crowns about 2cm below the surface of the soil and then spread straw/manure around each crown.

11. Continue to put as much food as possible out for garden birds. Refill feeders early in the day (or, as I do, the night before). The poor little feathered souls awake early and ravenous after a long night out in the cold. An early breakfast is much appreciated.

12. Hellebores will be starting to push their flower stems skywards. Cut off old, tatty leaves at ground level so the beauty of the flowers can be more easily seen.

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