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.
Below is our checklist of jobs to do in the garden in January and February.
And if extreme weather is forecast, we have some tips to prepare and protect your garden and house exterior in our how to guide.
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.
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. Learn more about growing potatoes with our helpful how to guide.
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. If they are, you may need to treat your fruit trees, to prevent further diseased fruit. For help identifying, treating and preventing plant diseases, read our helpful advice article.
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.
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, staging and 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.
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 engine 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. Finally sharpen the blades; if they are too badly battered they should be replaced.
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 5cm 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.
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.