WHAT SHOULD YOU BE DOING IN MID JANUARY
  • Continue winter pruning of trees and fruit bushes.
  • Prune indoor growing grape vines now, it will soon be too late.  If you prune them too late when the sap is rising they will bleed.
  • Dig in compost or farmyard manure into vegetable beds giving it time to get broken down by frost and worms.  Farmyard manure should not be dug in where you are going to sow onions and carrots this season.
  • Cloches or black plastic placed over soil will help to heat up the soil and keep it dry and more suitable for early planting.
  • Greenhouses and poly tunnels should get a good washing down now with Armillatox or Jeyes fluid and will help with disease and pest control.
  • Plant strawberry plants now, indoors for an early crop.  Pile on farmyard manure around rhubarb. Rhubarb stools covered now with a large pot, keeping out all the light will produce a tasty crop in 5-6 weeks.
  • Don’t forget birds will sing in your garden after they have had breakfast.  Snowdrops and singing birds is a sign of good things to come.

When I’m putting this article together, foremost in my mind is keeping it interesting and relevant. Gardening fashions change and there are some groups of plants that have gone from been must haves to almost forgotten. Personally, I think it’s a mistake to be a slave to fashion, no matter how I try, I find it very difficult to get excited about growing vegetables and I know this is not flavour-of-the-month all that healthy eating and so forth, that’s for another day.  I am always inspired by the diversity of evergreen conifers which over the last number of years have gone out of popularity for no good reason.  Conifers come in all shapes, sizes and colours.  Nearly all are extremely hardy and easy to grow requiring, no real work except the odd trim for some of the larger types. 

Conifers really come into their own this time of year.  Many of them intensify their colour as the days get colder. Crytomeria Japonica Elegans (Japanese Cedar) turns a lovely shade of bronze which lights up with winter sunshine. It needs a bit of room and in time will reach 5 metres high, there are more dwarf forms available. In contrast to this, Pinus Wallichiana (Bhutan Pine) with its soft tassels of dark green ferny foliage, which produces blue-green cones in time, is well worthy of the space it will take up.

Where space is a premium, plant Pinus Wintergold which turns from green to gold with the season and can easily be kept in shape. Under plant with winter flowering heathers, there is one called Challenger with its deep pink flowers, it’s guaranteed to brighten up any winter garden. Taxus Standishii is another torch for a winter garden. 

When choosing conifers you do need to take care of the eventual height. They all look much the same in the garden centre but there’s a huge diversity in eventual height, making the wrong choice or getting the wrong advice I think in the past is part of the reasons for their lack of popularity. If you have the space, the large blue cedar is fantastic but in a small garden Juniperus Communis Compressa, which even looks lovely mixed in with alpines, will hold its own and always look good regardless of fashion and only reaches 3 feet high and no more than 9 inches wide in 10 years.

January