January is a month of short days and long dark nights. It is usually a time to take things easier in the garden and a perfect time to start planning for your spring garden. Getting a head start can make life a lot easier come spring. When it is warm enough to brave the elements outside the tasks that need to be tackled are as follows:
* Recycle your Christmas tree by having it shredded for a mulch or bring it to your local recycling centre.
* Indoor forced bulbs that were in the house for Christmas displays and finished flowering can now be left outside in a sheltered spot.
* Don`t leave houseplants on window sills behind curtains on frosty nights especially if your windows are not double glazed.
* Clean up any weedy beds ready for mulching in the spring and take care not to let leaves accumulate around alpines as they will die if left damp for too long.
* Vacant areas in the vegetable garden can be dug over forking in plenty of rotted manure or compost. Then cover the soil with black polythene to prevent leaching of nutrients and also to raise temperature for early sowings.
* Continue to clear leaves and flower stems from perennials and subsequently add to the compost heap. In mild areas perennial clumps can still be divided which will revive tired and poorly flowering clumps.
* Seeds of the following can be sown indoors in gentle heat to provide early plants:-geraniums, verbena, lobelia, begonia and sweet pea. Soak sweet pea seeds in tepid water overnight before sowing. Visit your local store to see the full range available.
* Inspect stored tubers, corms and bulbs for rotting and discard any that show signs of deterioration or rotting.
* Pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs can be carried from now throughout the dormant season. Now is also a good time to prune apple and pear trees well in advance of bud burst.
* Force rhubarb for early harvesting by covering with a container or large pot to exclude light.
* Do not neglect to feed birds as food can be scarce and difficult to access at this time of year.