Once Christmas has been and gone and we enter a New Year, we all begin to look forward to a new season. It only takes a couple of sunny afternoons to convince us ever optimistic gardeners that Spring is on the way.
The winter so far has been relatively mild, some much needed rain has fallen and we have escaped the hard frosts and snow.
Already, the first Spring bulbs are peeping through the soil, and it won’t be too long before the crocus, snowdrops and early narcissi pop up to let us know the new gardening season is really on the way.
Before the gardening season really takes off, this is the ideal time to take stock and give some thought to the tasks ahead. Although we are still a number of weeks away from the first grass cutting of the year, this is a great time to give your mower the once over. If you like to have your machine serviced, book it in now before the rush. The same goes for your other mechanical tools – take an afternoon to check out the state of your strimmer, hedge cutters etc. You will be in a long queue if you leave this until Easter – so act now and then it’s done. You and your mower will be fresh and ready for the season ahead.
This is also a great time to give your greenhouse the once over – replace any broken panes, and give the existing glass a good clean with a low solution mix of household detergent and warm, soapy water.
If you are planning to replace the old soil, do it now so the new material has time to bed down ready for your tomatoes and cucumbers. And while the greenhouse is empty, use an anti-aphid candle to rid it of any insects who have over-wintered there.
You should also be keeping a close eye on any tubers or roots that you have saved from last season. Dahlia tubers should have been wrapped up safely last Autumn and been kept frost-free, but do take a look at them just to ensure they have not rotted or picked up any kind of fungal problems over the Winter. The same goes for lily, begonia and gladiola bulbs and tubers.
If you do keep these bulbs clean and dry, there is no reason why you can’t keep them going for many years.
And now is the time to plan your seed sowings. To make certain you are on time with your planting, why not draw up a calendar and arrange your new seeds in order of planting.
Get those old pots cleaned and sterilised so once the warmer weather arrives, you can hit the ground running and be certain your materials are safe and clean.
It really is worth spending some time making sure your pots , potting table and composts are clean and tidy – using old and dirty materials really can ruin new plantings.
If the weather is kind, then it is possible to begin the first outdoor tasks of the season. Although it is still too early to set about full pruning, some plants – particularly the perennials and shrubs that were left with decorative seedheads over the winter can now be trimmed back. Likewise, semi tender plants that have been kept either indoors or in the greenhouse since Autumn can be tidied up.
Again, plants such as fuchsias and geraniums that have been kept frost-free can now be trimmed back and , if required, re-potted. It is probably still far too early to let these plants get some fresh air, but if we do manage to get a warm, mild spell, it would do them a power of good to get out of the greenhouse for a few hours.
This is a very good time to take a look in your garden and search out any shrubs, particularly the variegated species, that are reverting to plain green and clip out any of the new growth.
Varieties that are susceptible and should be kept under surveillance are the Eleagnus family, Euonymous, Holly, Aucuba and Vincas.
Winter flowering shrubs that are now showing faded blooms can be clipped back now too. Mahonia Charity and early flowering Viburnum Tinus varieties are ready for a January trim, give their rootballs a dressing of bonemeal at the same time to encourage new , strong growth.
Here at the nursery, we’ve already started preparing for the new season. Our first batch of Spring pansies and primroses are looking good, and we’ve begun to pot on our geraniums and fuchsias and make the first sowings of tender perennials.
Now is also the time to plan just what vegetables you are going to grow this forthcoming season. In just a few weeks, the seed potatoes, shallots , onions, asparagus and garlic will be available in nurseries and garden centres.
The more popular varieties always sell out quickly, so do keep an eye out for when they arrive and make sure you get your favourite type.
Next month I’ll talk in depth about just which varieties are the best for your garden.