Gardening Tips

It’s wet out there! Grow how tips for January


Arghh, will it ever stop raining?!  It’s been a very wet and windy start to the New Year here and in many other parts of the country. 

It’s not tempting to get out into the garden in such miserable weather, but there are jobs calling, such as releasing lawn compaction and tidying the base of trees, as well as looking after your houseplants…

With the amount of rain that’s fallen recently, even my own garden which sits on chalk, has been sodden for weeks.  Soils with more clay in them are drenched and the lying water is not able to drain away fast enough.  

Try not to walk at all on the surface of soaking flower beds and borders, unless you absolutely must.  What happens is that your weight squeezes all the air out of the soil, and properly aerated earth is the very best medium for healthy root-growth.  It will also let the excess water drain through more quickly.

Water cannot permeate solid surfaces, and we are always being reminded of how paved-over front gardens are causing flooding problems elsewhere, with the run-off having nowhere to go.  Compaction of the soil has the same effect.  It’s better not to walk on flooded grass for the same reason,  but if you have patches of the lawn that are underwater, you might consider going out there with a fork and ramming it into the grass at intervals as deeply as you can to create holes. This will help to channel the water down and away.

A few good spikes with the fork prongs should help the water drain away

While I’m wittering on about the bloomin’ rain, it’s worth mentioning that perennials with hairy leaves like Stachys, borage, Anchusa, Pulmonaria etc. don’t like prolonged wet weather at all, so take the time to go round them and pick off any soggy stems and leaves before they spread rot to the rest of the plant. Do the same for yellowing leaves of winter bedding plants, and the old leaves of oriental hellebores, if you haven’t already done so.

Plants with hairy leaves like Pulmonaria (lungwort) loathe being soggy

Small deciduous garden trees can add so much interest, beauty and height to your outdoor space.  I find winter a really good time to assess their shapes and do a bit of careful pruning.   

Often, new branches can form that are weak, too low, congesting the centre of the tree, or crossing and rubbing other branches. Some types of tree are rather prone to creating a mass of watery shoots near the base of the tree.  In January you should have the time to have a critical look at each one, and tidy them up neatly with secateurs, loppers or a small curved handsaw.

Prune large branches from apple and pear trees now too, but don’t touch plum or cherry trees which can get silver leaf disease if pruned in winter.  Remember to take off large branches in stages, working back towards the trunk, so that the full weight of the whole branch doesn’t tear the trunk bark when it falls.

Assess your ornamental trees in winter and tidy them up

If you have spring bulbs planted beneath the branches, they will appreciate the additional light that a judicious thinning of branches will create.  Vigorous climbers like honeysuckle or Campsis can also be cut back hard now and do check that climbing hydrangeas are cut away from invading windows and gutters on the house.

Be really tough with overgrown honeysuckles and other vigorous climbers – time to wield the machete

Laura uses this time of year to thin her bamboo clumps and has put together a short video on how she does it – the link is below.

  • Were you given a new houseplant for Christmas?  Do you know how to look after it?  A while ago, I put together a little resumé of how to look after the most popular houseplants given as festive gifts – click on the link at the bottom to check it out.
Need to look after a Poinsettia or another festive plant-gift ? Check out some tips in the link below
  • If it’s frosty outside, try not to walk over the lawn – your feet are likely to snap the frosted grass blades. And knock heavy snowfalls off any hedges because the weight can cause the hedge plants to splay out sideways and spoil the hedge.
Frosted lawn
Try to keep off a lawn when it’s in this state
  • There are some bedding plants that need a longer growing season than the majority.  Salvias, pelargoniums, snapdragons and lobelia can all be started inside in a warm place now, so that they have time to reach their full potential in summer.  I always start my chillies off in January too – they seem to germinate and then do a LOT of loafing around looking puny before they really get going.
Sow Pelargonium seeds very early in the year – they need a long growing season
  • After all that activity, settle down with a warm cuppa, and browse all the wonderful New Year seed and plant catalogues. You can see in this week’s feature pic that I’ve already started! I have a pen and sheet of paper handy and make a note of anything that catches my eye. The list gets quite long🙄 Then I assess my actual garden needs, and my finances, prune the list by at least two-thirds and send the orders in quickly before I change my mind again! Is that what you do too?

Here is the link to my piece about houseplants.

Laura’s video on thinning bamboos can be found here.

We were very pleased to be included in an article about winter scents by Redfin in America – I think you’ll enjoy it.

No garden is too small to make room for another clematis, especially not one that’s such a sweet and welcome sight in January! Click on the image for Louise’s Great Plants this Month…

More NB If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

5 replies on “It’s wet out there! Grow how tips for January”

The dark gloom and cold of early January can be cheered up a bit by sowing some seeds, and I’m also going to get chillies started, and dahlias. Good to get your hands dirty!

I went out this week to tie back a climbing rose that had come loose, then ended up giving two climbers a proper hard prune. They look much better….but I hope it wasn’t too early for something so drastic (I’m in Edinburgh).

Hi Barbara, very glad to hear you’re getting some early seeds going as well – it feels such a positive thing to do, doesn’t it! Pruning climbing roses in winter is absolutely fine. They flower on old and new wood anyway, and at this time of year you can really see what’s what. The basic idea is to keep some of the main strong shoots, cut out all the weak or dead ones, and cut back the side shoots to a bud or two. I hope they respond magnificently for you this summer! All the best for the year ahead. Elaine

Happy New Year to the 3 lovely Growbags.
Look out for the Sussex NGS booklet..I am expecting delivery on 15th January though sadly Shirley has had to cancel her snowdrop openings at 5 Whitemans Close Cuckfield for med reasons.

Happy New Year, Irene! Sorry to hear that Shirley won’t be able to hold her snowdrop openings – I do hope she gets better soon. Fingers crossed for a fantastic year of gardening ahead of us – may all our failures be little ones! All the best, Elaine

Happy New Year, Growbags!
Thank you for keeping us amused, informed and therefore active in our gardens.
Happy gardening to all in 2024

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