January 01 2023

Head Gardeners’ tips
January 2023

Lucy Thorpe - Head Gardener, South West

It may have been a wet and windy start to 2023 but Head Gardener Lucy says there is still much to enjoy in the garden at the beginning of this new year!

January for me is a month of planning, preparation and promise.

The cooler and wetter weather does traditionally give us plenty of time to ponder and plan the gardening year ahead. A chance to grab a cup of tea and browse the seed catalogues and make some plans for tackling a new border, planting scheme or vegetable patch. Here in Salisbury, we are looking at the seeds we have in stock, checking they are still in date and leafing through our notes from 2022 to remind us what worked well and not so well.

Dry days give us a chance to get into the garden. The wet weather of late has meant that a lot of the winter structure we leave in our garden to provide seasonal interest and habitats for overwintering insects is not looking its best. Rather than remove all of the habitats, we are selectively cutting back those stems that have not faired so well, such as those of our Asters. The milder weather means many of the spring bulbs are emerging strongly. Now is the time to get into the border and check for any weeds that were previously hidden before it becomes too difficult to navigate the bulbs. We try to leave areas of fallen leaves at the back of borders as these provide a vital habitat for all manner of invertebrates and act as a natural mulch for the soil.

We are checking our bird boxes in preparation for new visitors very soon, making sure they are still intact and cleaning out last year’s nesting material. We will also be installing some new bird boxes. Make sure these are not placed in full sun and in a location which cannot easily be accessed by predators, such as cats.

Another big job for January is to mulch, mulch, mulch! Last summer was the warmest on record and really challenged some of our plants. Mulching our garden borders has many benefits. It suppresses weeds by burying them deeper below the surface discouraging their germination when the temperatures rise. Mulching adds more nutrients to our soil. There is no need to dig this in, the weather and soil organisms will bring the mulch into the soil where the nutrients can be utilised by our plants. The mulch also helps the soil retain moisture through improvement of the soil structure, vital for when the warmer weather returns.

Another good wet weather task is to venture into our sheds and give our tools a check over and sharpen those blades of pruners, loppers and secateurs.

January brings the promise of a fresh new year in the garden. As we carry out all of our planning and preparation, we can spend time mindfully in our gardens looking forward to what delights our plants lying dormant will bring us. The promise of a bountiful apple crop from its feed of fresh mulch; our display of annual flowers more vibrant and varied than ever through our exciting new seed selections; and the bees and butterflies delighting in the nectar produced by our perennials having successfully overwintered. So much to look forward to as we come into 2023!

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