January

General Maintenance

  • Continue with winter digging so any frost and snow can help break up heavier soils
  • Clear dead or dying leaves from around overwintering plants as these can encourage pests and diseases.
  • Hoe out any winter weeds such as chickweed and groundsel, as these will not only harbour disease but are home to any overwintering pest. Plus they will set seed at the first sign of any fine weather.
  • Make general repairs to things like fences, gates, and sheds as and when the weather permits. This will save time later in the growing season.

Vegetables

  • Start to chit any seed potatoes that have arrived.
    Place in a light, cool frost free shed or room, stood in egg trays or seedboxes with most of the eyes facing up. This will encourage the small shoots to appear ready for planting in late February to early March.
  • If not already done so order seeds of veg and flowers as the seed companies soon run out of the most popular varieties.
  • Over wintering cauliflowers may have produced small curds if the weather has allowed, these will need protecting by bending the leaves over the immature curds.

Fruit

  • Now is a good time to start forcing rhubarb.
    Only use healthy established crowns that are over 3 years old as the act of forcing takes a lot out of the plant.
    Tidy the plant of any dead or yellowing leaves and pack straw around the crown.
    Place a large bucket or dustbin over the plant to exclude the light and allow room to grow.
    Young tender sticks of rhubarb should be ready to pick by march.
    Don’t use the same plant for forcing each year, allow 2 to 3 seasons so the plant can regain its natural vigor.
  • Winter pruning can be done if there is no hard prolonged frosts forecast. Apples and pears can be tidied removing any weak spindly growth, opening up the center of the tree.
    The stone fruits such as cherries, plums, and gauges are best left until summer because of the risk of silver leaf disease.
    Other fruits that will benefit from winter pruning are: black, red and white currents, cane fruits such as blackberries, raspberries hybrid berries and gooseberries.

Greenhouse

  • Clean the greenhouse thoroughly to remove any remaining pests or diseases.
  • Wash greenhouse glass inside and out to allow as much light in as possible for the seeds that will be germinating in the coming weeks.
  • Ventilate the greenhouse whenever possible as warm damp stagnant air only encourages fungal disease on any overwintering plants.
  • Resist the temptation of a few warming days and higher temperatures in the greenhouse to sow a multitude of seeds.
    The germinated seedlings will suffer from cold nights and dull damp days, producing drawn, sappy growth that is extremely prone to pest and disease.
  • If slight heat is available in the greenhouse it may be possible to sow some of the exhibition strains of onions.
    As these require a long growing season, the earlier sown the better, but keep in mind that these too can suffer from any long periods of cold dark winter weather.