January Gardening Advice

A blank notepad on a wooden table with seeds in envelopes, handheld garden tools and small pots

With Christmas now but a distant memory, it’s time to pack away the decorations and embrace the year ahead. But whilst you make those New Year’s resolutions it’s also the moment, preferably in front of a warm fire, to write up your plant wishlist for the growing season ahead. What are you hoping to grow, eat and bloom in your gardens and allotments? Draw blueprints of your growing area, assign plants to each bed, make changes, start again – it doesn’t matter, this is the fun stuff. Being creative and getting excited by your ideas is all part of the gardening journey. However, if you need inspiration, go online, read gardening blogs or flick through seed catalogues.

If you’re new to gardening and fancy making a long-term commitment, then now’s the time to get yourself signed up to the local allotment. Not only will this open up a whole new world of growing opportunities, but it’s a great place to meet fellow gardeners and be part of a community. These are growers that know the lay of the land, can offer free advice and even seed swap.

Whilst winter does it worst, take comfort in knowing that the days now are only going to get longer. So, embrace this quiet time and look forward to an exciting growing season.

In the flower garden

Garden mulch made from old Christmas tree chippings and needlesMulch

Although Christmas is over, there’s still plenty of value left in your exhausted Christmas tree. If shredded, this makes an excellent mulch for ericaceous plants such as blueberries, or consider using the chippings to create allotment or garden paths. If not chipped, the long spiky branches can be used as plant supports for peas and broad beans in the spring season.

Tidy up

Make way for new growth by cutting down and tidying up flower borders. Ensure you do not cut into new growth as not only will you lose vital young shoots, but an exposed wound will be open to the elements which could potentially kill the plant. Remove fallen foliage from beds as it could be protecting garden pests.

If ornamental grasses are looking shabby then, using gloves, comb your fingers through the stems to remove dying and unwanted leaves. Cutting back to the ground should ideally be done in early spring.

Before hellebores come into their own, cut away old leaves. Not only are you making way for the new blooms but much of the old foliage, with its black blotches, will look unattractive and can hold hellebore leaf spot.


Winter pansies may now be struggling to look their best and may need a helping hand to prevent them from going to seed. Prune regularly, removing any dying blooms.


If you can, keep off the grass. The freezing weather combined with your weight can cause permanent damage to your prized lawn.

Water supply

Frozen water can expand, forcing taps and pipes to burst. Therefore, protect external taps and pipes from frost. If you can, turn off the external water supply altogether.


A garden greenhouse with snow on the roofWith the prospect of snow more likely this month, it’s important to brush fallen snow from greenhouses, cloches, fruit cages and cold frames. The extra weight can break the glass, plus the plants inside need all the warmth and light they can get. Remove snow from delicate evergreens and tree branches to prevent damage.


A heat supply in your greenhouse will give you the advantage of making early sowings for plants such as sweet pea and aquilegia. If you’ve been growing sweet pea since last autumn then pinch out the tips, as this will encourage side-shoots and result in a bushier plant.


Any fruit or veg currently in storage should be checked regularly to ensure they haven’t spoilt. Turn them over and remove any decaying or damaged produce. Ensure they aren’t touching to encourage a good air supply around them.


If you planted snowdrop bulbs last autumn, you may see their delicate little heads rearing themselves from the hardened, snow-covered ground this month. Not only a beautiful sight, but it’s a welcome indication to gardeners that the garden is slowly starting to stir from its winter slumber.

Garden wildlife

Ensure all bird feeding stations are topped up and water supplies are changed regularly and not left to freeze. If you have a fish pond, avoid smashing the ice if it freezes over as this can shock, or even kill, the fish. Instead, try to melt the ice gently with hot water. Don’t worry about harming the fish, as they tend to remain at the bottom of the pond during the winter months.

On the veg patch

A bunch of freshly lifted leeks laid out on the soilWinter veg

Continue to harvest veg such as swede, parsnips, carrots, winter brassicas, leeks and artichokes. Ensure any yellowing brassica leaves are removed as they could be hiding pests. As beds become bare, turn over the soil and add a thick layer of well-rotted manure or compost. You should aim to get all of your winter digging done by the end of this month – this will ensure your mulch has enough time to breakdown and work into the soil.

Seed potatoes

Most suppliers are already delivering stock to customers. If you leave it too late, you could run the risk of your chosen varieties being unavailable. Get them ordered now, and you could be chitting your first earlies by the end of the month.

Stand the tubers apart – egg boxes make ideal holders – with their eyes facing upwards. Place somewhere warm, dry and with plenty of sunshine, such as a kitchen windowsill, porch or warm greenhouse. Try to keep sprouts down to three maybe four so the energy isn’t too dispersed, thus producing weaker shoots. Six weeks on and tubers should be ready for planting out.


If you have a heat supply in your polytunnel or greenhouse, consider sowing onion seeds. They will need that extra protection, but by giving them an extended growing season the end result will be worth it and you could be harvesting onions a few weeks earlier.

Chillies and peppers

These crops need a long growing season, so get sowing now. With so many varieties to choose from, growing these fruits has never been so popular. The seeds can be grown in modules, pots or trays to the depth of 6mm, on a warm windowsill or seedling heat mat. Although germination can be slow, once their true leaves have been revealed it’s important to pot them up. Keep them warm, lit and well-watered.


Three upturned clay pots in a row in a winter garden, being used to force rhubarbBy forcing rhubarb now, you’re simply speeding up its growth for an earlier harvest and sweeter stems. As soon as new growth appears from the crown, cover the plant over with a rhubarb forcer or container, excluding all light. Eight weeks on, the stalks should be 20-30cm long, and ready to harvest.

Apple and pear trees are still dormant and can be pruned. When pruning, keep in mind the three ‘Ds’. Dead, diseased and damaged. Anything that falls under these categories should be removed. Bare rootstock varieties can be bought and planted out. Gooseberries and currants can also be pruned, whilst autumn fruiting raspberries can be cut down to just above the surface. As they have a shallow root system, consider mulching around the canes to protect the roots from winter weather.

Continue to ensure all trees, fruit canes and climbers are staked and tied-in, thus avoiding wind-rock and potential winter damage.

Other jobs

  • While it’s cold outside, the heating systems in homes is constant. Ensure your indoor plants aren’t in direct line to heat sources, such as open fires and radiators.
  • Check your indoor plants for any signs of scale insects and mealybugs.
  • Order seed catalogues.

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