Top gardening jobs to do in January – including important pruning

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Although often the coldest month of the year, January is a great time to get back outside. It may be the middle of winter, but as the days lengthen, the garden starts to grow again. The RHS has shared a variety of different jobs gardeners should be getting on with this month.

They explained: “Now is a great time to plan for the coming gardening year and to order seeds and plants. Enjoy the fresh air, on dry sunny days, and check your winter protection, stakes, ties and supports are still working after any severe weather.

“Also put out food for birds and leave some garden areas uncut, a little longer, to provide shelter for wildlife in your garden.”

One of the top jobs to do this month is to prune apple and pear trees as well as clean pots and greenhouses ready for spring.

Although pruning a tree such as an apple or pear tree may seem daunting, it is quite easy to cut the tree back to a well-shaped, productive tree.

The RHS said: “Aim to take between 10 to 20 percent of the overall canopy off in any one winter. Work around the tree evenly and keep an eye on your pruning pile – if it’s looking a little big, stop. You can always go back next year and do some more.

“The more you prune, the stronger the regrowth. If you have pruned too hard, your tree is likely to produce vigorous upright branches called watershoots. This isn’t ideal as they crowd the crown.

“Your aim is to take out a bit of old wood each winter, to stimulate new. But the majority of the fruiting wood should be quite young – one to four years old, which is the wood that fruits best.

“Also aim to create an open centre to your tree. This allows more light into the canopy to ripen the shoots and fruit. Improved air movement discourages diseases.”

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The experts recommended trying to stagger pruning cuts throughout the canopy to promote even growth. Gardeners should also resist the temptation to prune off “large limbs” because they are at risk of decay.

As a general rule, the RHS said to think twice before cutting into branches that are more than 10cm to 12cm in diameter. 

They added: “If you must prune that branch, trace it away from the tree to see if there is a narrower section, perhaps where it forks and prune there instead.”

Although not the most glamorous, cleaning pots, gutters, water butts and greenhouses is one of the most important tasks to be done. According to the experts, cleaning greenhouses, no matter the material, greatly improves the growing environment for plants.

Removing algae, moss and grime will also let in more light and help to control diseases. So how can gardeners clean these important items in their garden?

Firstly, remove plants and debris from greenhouses and begin to clean the structural parts with disinfectant or detergent. The RHS said: “Glazing material should also be washed inside and out, but for plastic materials, test on a small inconspicuous area first to be sure the cleaning material does not damage the glazing.

“Scrub off any old shade paint on the outside of the glass from the summer and ease out dirt trapped between panes using a flexible scraper such as a plastic plant label. 

“Replace broken parts such as vent controllers and draught excluders and pay attention to propagation areas and equipment.”

Gardeners can also lay a new turf or repair hollows and bumps on existing lawn. To repair patches, make a H-shape cut in the turf, peeling back the grass and filling it with loam. Then, relay the turf and press it into place, pinching the cut edges together.

The experts added: “Repair lawn edges, especially around flower and shrub beds, with turves cut from other areas of the garden.

“If your lawn suffers dieback from treading during the wet, muddy season, then consider laying stepping stones through it to allow easy access across it without causing damage.”

Sweet peas can also be sown in January and those which were sown earlier in the autumn can now be potted. The RHS also recommended planting lily bulbs in pots and borders during mild spells of the month.

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