The Christmas festivities are starting to feel like they were a long time ago and the days are still miserably short and dark. But why not shake off those winter blues by getting out in the garden!
The fruit and veg patch
- Buy onion sets but delay planting outside until it gets warmer; sometime in early March.
- Planting onion sets too early results in them producing flower heads ('bolting'). However, you can get them started now under a cover — plant in cell trays to transplant out later.
- Shallots are very hardy so you can plant out now.
A great selection of onion sets and shallots
- Plan which vegetables you are going to grow this year! The 2020 seed packets will be on display now.
- If you want to try something new this year, remember that modern varieties often supersede old ones! A lot of modern varieties often have pest and disease resistance so that you won't need to spray.
- Dig garden lime into the areas where you are planning to grow cabbages, sprouts, etc. to help combat clubroot disease. Aim for a pH of 7.5. Some clubroot-resistant varieties such as Cabbage F1 Kilazol are now available.
- Plant fruit trees, bushes, canes and rhubarb.
- Prune apples and pear trees. Don't prune if they are fan, cordon or espalier trained as these should be done in summer when they are in leaf to avoid silver leaf disease.
Pruning apple trees when dormant
- If you are itching to get growing this year’s veg, sow turnips, lettuce, stump rooted carrots, early cabbage, cauliflower and spinach in trays on the windowsill. These could then be planted outside in February.
- Clean houseplant leaves with leaf shine. Dusty leaves will struggle in low light at this time of year, and will look so much better when polished!
- Mist over the tops of houseplants regularly, especially if they are in a room with central heating. Water carefully; it's better to let plants dry out and then give a thorough soak than a small amount regularly. Many indoor plants are killed by overwatering!
- Never be afraid to carefully knock the plant out of its pot to see whether it needs water!
- Remove old flowers ("deadheading") from cyclamen, African violets, Christmas cacti and azaleas to encourage more buds to open.
Saintpaulia aka African Violet
- Don't forget to keep cyclamen and azaleas as cool as possible to prolong flowering.
- It's better to water Azaleas with rainwater at room temperature.
- Cyclamen should be watered from below to prevent grey mould from developing at the leaf and flower stem bases.
- When nights are freezing, move plants away from cold window sills. Keep them the room side of the curtains at night!
In the greenhouse
- Diseases often appear in greenhouses this month. Spray with a fungicide at the very first sign of illness. It's best to spray early in the day so that the tops of plants are dry before nightfall. Westland Fungus Fighter should do the trick.
- Keep a sharp watch for greenfly in greenhouses as they often appear inside in January. Spray SB Invigorator or Bug Clear Ultra as soon as any appear. If you catch them early, you can often minimise the spray that you use by targeting just the initial infestation.