Happy New Year to everyone! I do hope that you all had an absolutely fantastic Christmas holiday with family and friends. I had a super day with family, which will be much remembered!
Gardening is such a creative, rewarding and productive pastime, with opportunities to learn new skills, find out about exciting new plants, share ideas and make new friends and all too easy to get passionate about. It is hugely beneficial for both mental and physical health, keeping mind and body active, whatever your age. In fact, gardening could be described as the ‘Natural Health Service’, as doctors recognise the numerous benefits gardening brings without the need for costly therapies and drugs, and their unwelcome side effects.
For instance, eating well (and at little expense) can start by growing your own homegrown crops – all part of the ‘5 a day’ we all need to provide nutrients, health-boosting vitamins and minerals, and essential phytochemicals that help protect our bodies against disease. Herbs not only add wonderful flavours to our home cooking and teas, but bring many health benefits too. I used to encourage my little ones to sow carrots, tomatoes and lettuce from an early age in pots. Invariably, they never reached the kitchen and were eaten raw in the garden with smiley faces and lots of ‘yum yum’s’.
Crops can be grown in even the smallest of spaces or in pots, providing the reward of picking fresh produce you’ve raised yourself, and it tastes so good! Combine these with herbs, colourful plants and fragrant flowers and any outdoor space will be transformed, giving you somewhere relaxing to sit or a vibrant space to socialise and entertain with family and friends.
By creating a garden that looks great all-year-round you’ll not only have a beautiful outlook but more opportunities to be tempted outside throughout the year to stay active and grow yourself healthy.
To give your garden structure and form choose plants that offer more than one season of interest. In particular, pick evergreen plants and architectural shrubs with green, coloured or variegated foliage that also produce seasonal flowers, and perhaps fruits or berries too.
Plant these to form the backbone to your garden, giving it structure, and adding height at the back of borders. Use their bold shapes and sizes to obscure eyesores and cover boring fences, cut down noise from roads and neighbours, and create a sense of privacy and seclusion. You could choose from these good plants that provide year-round interest, for example, Choisya ‘Sundance’, or ‘Aztec Pearl’, Hebe ‘Red Edge’, Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’, Skimmia japonica ‘Fragrans’, Photinia ‘Red Robin’ or it’s smaller cousin ‘Little Red Robin’, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’, Japanese spotted laurel - Aucuba japonica ‘Crotonifolia’, Osmanthus x burkwoodii, Elaeagnus x submacrophylla ‘Limelight’ and Euonymus, Pieris, etc, etc. Later in the year mix in perennials, bulbs and annuals for splashes of colour or height. I always recommend visiting a garden centre once a month to see what is looking good, and then it is easy to build year round interest.
We always love to talk gardening and nature here at the Shop, so it’s great when people pop in for a chat or some advice. It’s particularly nice to encourage younger families to start growing and even nicer when they return to show off their prize plants. A warm welcome awaits any time of the year …
So to January in the garden … a month of unpredictable weather. However, as the first snowdrops start to appear there are still some jobs to get on with.
THINGS TO DO IN JANUARY?
· Keep up with feeding wild birds, and make sure that they have a plentiful supply of fresh water. If we have a cold spell, replace water in trays daily. My Mama used to use a tea light under a square of bricks with a dish on top to keep the water defrosted. Remember that feeding birds now will encourage them into your garden and eat all those nasty bugs and grubs later in the year.
· If it does get really frosty, place a small ball in your pond to prevent it freezing over. The breeze moving the ball about is the science bit as it stops the ice from forming! Any frogs hibernating in your pond will be grateful as they still need oxygen to survive.
· Alternatively, if it has been unusually mild, you may find that some plants have stirred into life early. Some protection using bracken or fleece may be necessary if we get overnight frosts. Even laying newspaper over your plants will offer some protection. Pots can be sheltered next to a south-facing wall with a swathe of bubble wrap.
· Check to see if any new hedging has started to ‘rock’ in the wind, and firm then in again. A good mulch underneath will also help to protect their roots.
· It’s time to prune wisteria and roses, and cut back ornamental grasses before they spring into new growth.
· Keep dead-heading winter pansies to prolong their flowering period.
· Parsnips and leeks are ready to harvest (and make very nice soup!). One of our favourites is Spicy Parsnip and Pear (as my daughter, Lizzy, says ‘weirdly wonderful’)!
· You can start chitting early potatoes, and even grow some under cover in a container for really early earlies! Impress your friends!
· Place an upturned bucket or bin over the rhubarb to force it. They will then produce tender stems much earlier that usual.
· If you are starting seed sowing this month, try using an electric propagator. I find it greatly increases the germination rate, and seeds come up much more quickly. Try to avoid over-sowing, or sow in succession for a regular supply of flowers and veg through the summer months.
· Try to avoid walking on the lawn if it is frosty or covered in snow as this will kill the grass beneath. Sounds like a very good excuse to put your feet up with a cup of tea and the seed catalogues, or garden planning book. Plan vegetable plots so that you rotate the different crops every year. As a general rule brassicas follow legumes (peas and beans) and onions and roots; legumes, onions and roots follow potatoes; and potatoes follow brassicas. This helps to increase fertility and ensure that any disease in the soil is removed.
· Either shred your Christmas tree or take it to a centre for shredding.
· Clean patios and decks with a pressure washer to remove moss and slime.
GET IN FRONT….
· Send the lawnmower and strimmer off for servicing! Don’t forget that mower blades, and other tools can be sharpened here at the Shop. Please phone or call in for dates.