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What to do in the garden in January

Red variety of Rose 'Breeder's Choice Collection' (Hybrid Tea Rose) — Available from Thompson & Morgan

Plant bare root roses in January
Image: Rose 'Breeder's Choice Collection' (Hybrid Tea Rose) from Thompson & Morgan

January is the beginning of the gardening yeara time for fresh starts, renewed energy, and grand plans for the twelve months ahead.

Jobs in the garden this month are mostly about keeping things trim and tidy, and getting ready for the year to come. If you're itching to get growing, there are a few things you can do besides the obvious planting bare root roses, chitting first early potatoes and starting off your sweet pea seeds. Check out what to sow and grow this month right here.

Timely Tips

blue tit and great spotted woodpecker on a snow covered birdfeeder

Feed birds throughout winter to encourage them into your garden
Image: TTPhoto/Shutterstock

It might be cold outside, but there are still plenty of jobs to do in the garden this month. Here are the main ones:

  1. Put your new-year enthusiasm to good use by cleaning pots, tools, water butts and greenhouses in preparation for spring. It’s not the most glamorous of tasks, but it will set you up for a great growing season.
  2. Start planning what you want to do with your garden in the months to come. Now is the time to order seeds and plants from the comfort of your armchair (see below).
  3. Check your winter protection is still working for you — survey any stakes, supports and ties that might have been damaged in bad weather.
  4. Continue looking after wildlife — put out wild birdfood for hungry birds and continue to leave some areas of your garden uncut for shelter until the spring.

In the flower garden

yellow pansy under snow — different pansy varieties are available from Thompson & Morgan

Deadhead winter-flowering pansies to prevent them from going to seed
Image: Trinochka/Shutterstock

Here are your main tasks to do in the flower garden this month:

Pruning and tidying

  • Prune your wisteria by cutting back whippy summer growth, leaving only 2 or 3 buds.
  • Prune rose bushes this month while they are still dormant. Cut branches back to just above a bud, making sure to remove any crossing or dead branches.
  • January is the month to start pruning rhododendrons. Read our guide to learn more.
  • If your honeysuckle is very overgrown, now is the best time to prune and cut back hard to encourage healthy, new growth this spring.
  • Cut back ornamental grasses. Clip back the old foliage from before new growth begins - cut back to within a few centimetres of the ground.
  • Tidy up perennials. Cut down the old stems of perennial plants like sedum - be careful of any new growth.
  • Remove old hellebore leaves to expose the new blooms as they emerge this spring.
  • Cut back willow trees. Remove any damaged or diseased stems. Take out the oldest stems of brightly coloured willows, and thin out any overcrowding.
  • Remove any faded flowers from your winter pansies to stop them setting seed.

In the vegetable garden

Parsnip 'Warrior' F1 Hybrid from Thompson & Morgan

Harvest parsnips now
Image: Parsnip 'Warrior' F1 Hybrid from Thompson & Morgan

The vegetable garden might feel quiet in January, but there are still plenty of jobs to do this month. If you want an excuse to get outdoors on a fine day, here are some things to be getting on with:

  • Keep harvesting your parsnips and leeks as you need them.
  • Protect potato grow bags with frost protection fleece on cold nights if your greenhouse is unheated.
  • Remove yellowing leaves from winter brassicas - they don’t help the plant and can even harbour pests and diseases.
  • Prepare the ground for early peas. Place a cloche over the soil this month, to warm up the ground a few weeks before sowing.

In the fruit garden

Gooseberry 'Giggles Green' from Thompson & Morgan

Prune gooseberries in January to encourage new growth next summer
Image: Gooseberry 'Giggles Green' from Thompson & Morgan

Here are the main jobs to do in your fruit garden this month:

Pruning

  • Prune apple and pear trees if you haven't done so already. It’s best done during the winter while the plants are still dormant. Aim to create an open frame of branches in a goblet shape.
  • Prune your currant plants and gooseberries now to maintain a productive framework of healthy branches.
  • Leave stone fruit trees like plums, cherries and apricots alone until the summer. Pruning them now will only make them susceptible to silver leaf fungal infections. Read our silver leaf pests & diseases guide to learn more about this airborne infection.

Other jobs

  • Force rhubarb plants by placing an upturned bucket or bin over the crown. The tender pink stems will be ready in about 8 weeks time.
  • Order fruit bushes, such as currants and raspberries, now to plant in a prepared bed in a sheltered position; they will be a lot tastier than supermarket produce!

Looking after your lawn

  • Avoid walking on your lawn whenever it is blanketed by heavy frost or snow, as this will damage the grass beneath.

Other jobs around the garden

conifers and hedges covered in snow

Brush heavy snow off hedges and conifers
Image: Artush/Shutterstock

Here are some other jobs you can do around the garden this January:

  • Check your climbers and climbing shrubs are securely attached to their supports with ties.
  • Remove any lurking weeds, roots and all, from your beds and borders.
  • Remove heavy snow from greenhouses and cold frames to prevent glass being damaged.
  • Brush heavy snow off hedges and conifers to prevent the branches from snapping out under the weight.
  • Shred your Christmas tree and add it to your compost bins. Alternatively, the stripped down branches make great pea sticks.
  • Feed the birds by hanging fat balls and keeping bird feeders topped up to attract birds, which in turn eat garden pests.
  • Remove slimy patches from patios and paving by scrubbing with a broom or blast with a pressure washer.
  • Plant amaryllis bulbs in pots now, for spectacular indoor flowers in early spring.
  • Move any sprouting potato planters inside as frosts will kill the foliage.
  • Inspect fruits and vegetables in storage and remove any that are diseased or soft to the touch.
  • Check dahlia tubers in storage and remove any that are showing signs of rotting.
  • Hydrate houseplants. Central heating can dry the air in your home and cause damage to indoor plants. Mist house plants regularly and stand them on a tray of pebbles filled with water to increase humidity.

From your armchair

Apple 'Blenheim Orange' from Thompson & Morgan

Order fruit trees ready for planting in spring
Image: Apple 'Blenheim Orange' from Thompson & Morgan

January is a great time to plan your garden for the year ahead. Make the most of this quieter month to do the following garden admin from the comfort of your armchair:

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