Tips and advice on garden care in January & February
New Year is the perfect time to get out in the garden and do some essential maintenance and planning for the spring. When the weather starts to get a bit warmer in March and April, and your garden springs to life, there will be lots to do. The more preparation you can do in advance, the better. Get those last few winter gardening jobs out of the way now to set your garden up for success in the spring.
It’s not only maintenance that you can do at this time of year. You can brighten up a garden with striking displays of densely packed pansies, violas, cyclamen and heather. They are a colourful addition to a wintery garden and help bring it to life. Below is our checklist of jobs to do in the garden in January and February.
Tools & materials required
Gardening ideas for January & February
Tools you might need:
Keep an eye on outdoor pots, planters and tubs
Any plant in a container can dry out, even when the weather is wet. Pay particular attention to those that are close to a wall.
Top-dress your pots by scraping off the top 5 centimetres (cm) of old potting compost. Remove any weeds or moss, and replace it with some new compost which has some slow-release fertiliser mixed into it. Sometimes, plants can outgrow the pot that they are in and become root bound causing them to struggle. Try re-potting them into a larger pot or plant them out in the garden.
In other instances, if plants have been in a pot for a long time, they might have depleted the nutrient value of the soil, causing them to look tired. Try giving the plant a complete change of compost to help refresh them.Shop watering cans Shop compost Shop pots & planters
Clear and enrich existing boarders
Feed and prepare the beds for the coming season. Sprinkle general-purpose fertiliser and carefully fork it into the top few centimetres of soil. Add mulch or bark to flowerbeds but avoid adding too much mulch to beds when they are dry, or if the weather is very frosty, as that will make it harder for water to penetrate. Give borders a good soak if the weather has been unusually dry.
If you want to install a watering system such as this watering dripper kit, do so now while the ground is relatively clear.
Plan new beds & borders
If you’re going to create new beds and borders in previously unused areas of the garden, start preparing the ground as early in the season as possible. This makes sure that the ground is in a good planting condition by the time you’re ready to start putting plants in. Make sure that your soil is not too wet or frosty before you begin this task.
Mark out the shape of the border and skim the ground clear of any weeds and grass growing there. Dig over the soil with a spade or fork, incorporating compost and other soil improvers.
Keep lightly turning over the surface of the ground regularly, every couple of weeks until spring. This not only kills off a lot of weeds, it reduces soil pests the natural way. You’ll also be able to spot and remove bits of root as they start growing.Shop soil improvers Shop compost
Plan your vegetable patch
Think about which vegetables and salads you want to plant in your vegetable patch. The four main crop groups in your garden are; root vegetables, brassicas (cabbages, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower), Legumes (peas and beans), and leafy salads.
Plan to plant vegetables from each of the groups in their own patch and then rotate where you plant them each year. This is the best way to avoid lots of root pests and diseases.
If you haven’t done any winter digging, now is the time to get it started. Dig or fork over bare patches of ground, mixing in soil enrichers as you go. If you’ve already dug over your vegetable patch, the weather is mild and you have well-drained soil, you can warm up your soil ready for planting. To do this, cover the soil with tarpaulin or polythene sheets, or even old carpet pieces. This is a great way to warm soil up ready for sowing early vegetables and salads in the spring.
Start chitting your potatoes in February. To do this, put them in a light, frost-free, cool place with the end showing the most 'buds' uppermost. They should be ready for planting outside in March when the sprouts are an inch or two long.
Prune standard apple and pear trees
Cut out any shoots that are dead, diseased or dying. Also cut any shoots that cross over each other, rub together in windy weather, or that point back into the middle of the tree instead of outwards. When cutting a shoot, go right back to the point where it grows out of a thicker branch and cut it as neatly as possible.
Try and cut thick branches on a slant so that the rain can run off rather than allowing moisture to sit on the cut and rot the branch. This will result in bigger, better-quality fruit that develops more flavour and colour. Check your stored fruit and throw out any that are showing signs of disease. For help identifying, treating and preventing plant diseases, read our helpful advice article.
Keep feeding and watering the birds
January and February are still potentially difficult months for wildlife, especially garden birds. Fresh water and food is really key, especially on cold days. Keep putting out good quality bird food and suet balls on your bird table and in your feeders. Bread is just a filler food so seeds, nuts and suet are the best food to provide for your garden birds.
Repair anything damaged over the winter
The early months of the year are a good time to carry out repair jobs around the garden, such as replacing broken fence panels, re-felting your shed roof and treating and repainting all your timber. Visit our Ideas & Advice section for advice on all sorts of garden maintenance tasks and more.
It’s also a good idea to give any garden canes and wooden plant stakes a coat of preservative. Half fill a metal bucket or old tin can with wood preservative and stand the canes up in it overnight, so they soak up as much of the treatment as they can, then turn them the other way up so that the preservative can penetrate as much of the cane or stake as possible.
Clean out your greenhouse
Before you fill your greenhouse with lots of lovely seedlings and new plants for spring, give your greenhouse a good clean up and tidy out if you haven’t already.
If it’s made of glass, clean down the panes with some glass cleaner, if it’s a polycarbonate, use warm water with disinfectant cleaner in it.
Replace any broken shelves and staging seed trays. You can start keeping young plants in the greenhouse if it’s mild or you have a greenhouse heater, but if not, it’s just a good opportunity to get your greenhouse ready for spring.
Get your tools ready
Now is the time to give garden tools and equipment a good cleaning to help keep them in good working order. Wash them down and scrub or scrape off hard-set soil. Clean the handles of wooden tools with clean rags dipped in boiled linseed oil. Sharpen the blades of tools like secateurs, hoes and loppers and paint all metal blades with motor oil.
Most modern mowers don’t need to be sent away for servicing but they will still need a little regular attention. First find the manual and follow the maintenance instructions. As a general rule you should clean off dried or decomposing grass, which sets solid in hard-to-reach places. Clean or replace the spongy air filters, and change the oil or spark plugs if it’s a motor mower. Finally sharpen the blades; if they are too badly battered they should be replaced.
Keep off the grass
It’s best to avoid walking on the lawn for as long as you can. Especially if you’re going to be walking the same route (such as going backwards and forward to the shed) over and over again. When grass is wet and frosty, it’s more likely to get damaged and it won’t be able to repair itself until spring. If it’s not easy to keep off your grass, dig in some stepping stones to make an attractive walkway. Space them out so it’s easy for the people with the smallest steps in the household to use.
Give your lawn a winter boost. Spike it with a fork or hollow-tine aerator and top dress with gritty sand. Do this for a couple of years and you’ll see a big improvement.