Welcome to the new year and the start of a new gardening season. It’s that time of year where we all start making commitments or to tick something off our ‘bucket list. Gardening is no different, and a new years gardening resolution is a good way to make a new commitment to your garden.
January is a time to reflect on the growing successes (and failures) of the previous year and what a strange growing season 2018 turned out to be! A cold damp spring and ‘the beast from the east’ delaying the start of the growing season, then when the weather finally turned, we had a long hot dry summer, followed by a mild autumn. Our climate is changing and when the weather is unpredictable it’s difficult for gardeners to plan for the season ahead.
It can help to follow good gardening practices, the things we should really be doing whatever the weather. Warmer winters will mean that many of the pests and problems that are normally killed by cold weather will survive to plague us in spring. Organic methods such as providing habitats for predators will be of great benefit. When the pests are alive, so are the predators that keep them in check. Fungal diseases thrive with wet winter conditions, so good hygiene practices will help as well. Decaying vegetation is the ideal refuge for many pests and diseases. Remove plant debris regularly from greenhouse and garden areas. Keep garden tools and pots clean and disinfected.
As gardeners we have the ability to be flexible with what varieties of plants we grow. We can vary our sowing times and sow back-ups in case the first sowing fails. Successional sowing can save the day if it the first fails utterly. Different varieties will cope with different conditions, pests and diseases. The cost of seeds is relatively low and many will last for following seasons meaning we can sow three or four varieties knowing we have maximised the chances of survival.
Organic matter in the soil acts as a sponge and buffer to extreme water conditions, so improve your soil. In the event of a drought there is a larger amount of water stored in the soil to help carry the garden through to the next rain. In wet weather, the organic matter increases the soil’s capacity to absorb water and the improved structure will allow oxygen to still get to the plant roots. Plants, like animals, can literally drown if no oxygen is available. So improved soil condition will benefit whichever way the weather goes.
Gardens are one of the most precious legacies that we can leave for future generations. As a gardener, you have joined the fight against global warming. Your garden is contributing oxygen to the atmosphere and providing sanctuary for birds, wildlife, and pollinators. It’s time to prepare our gardens and the young people who will manage these gardens in the future for uncertain climatic conditions.
Top Tips for January:
• Start cutting back deciduous grasses towards the end of the month
• Purchase and Chit Seed Potatoes
• Plant new soft fruit canes and bushes
• Winter prune wisteria and deciduous hedges such as hawthorn, beech or hornbeam.
• Sow seeds of Summer bedding including Begonia, Lobelia, Salvia and Pelargonium in a heated greenhouse or propagator to provide early plants.
• Start forcing Rhubarb
• If you have a compost heap, January is a good time to get stuck in and give it a turn.
Whatever January brings I hope you are able to spend some time in your garden.
Rachel Sobiechowski BSc (Hons) P&R Garden Supplies, Fengate Drove, Brandon 01842 814800 www.p-rgardensupplies.co.uk