In the Garden – January

January might be the middle of winter and we have little opportunity to get our wellies on and get outdoors, but we can take heart that the garden will start to grow as the days lengthen.

Now is a great time to plan for the coming gardening year and contemplate which seeds and plants would work in your garden. There are lots of new nursery and seed catalogues to trawl through on the bitterly cold rainy days with a hot cuppa!

  • Top Jobs in January
  • Dig over any vacant beds that have not been dug already
  • Inspect stored tubers of Dahlia, Begonia and Canna for rot or drying out
  • Prune apple and pear trees
  • Clean pots and greenhouses ready for spring
  • Start forcing rhubarb
  • Plan your vegetable crop rotations for the coming season
  • Gather catalogues and order for the coming year


Cut off old leaves of hellebores that produce flowers from ground level to expose the flowers. You can also cut away some Iris unguicularis leaves to expose the flowers.

Root cuttings can be taken now. For example: Papaver (perennial poppies), Verbascum (mullein), Acanthus and Phlox.
Start cutting back grasses and other perennials left for winter interest. Alternatively you can leave them a few more months to provide wildlife cover.

During dry spells, you can still lift and divide herbaceous perennials. This will increase stocks, and revive poorly flowering clumps.

Sowing & Planting

Sow seeds of Begonia, Lobelia, Salvia and Pelargonium in a heated greenhouse or propagator to provide early plants.

Sweet peas can be sown this month. Sweet peas sown earlier in the autumn can now be potted on taking care not to disturb the roots too much. Place them on a sunny windowsill, or on a high shelf in the greenhouse that gets plenty of light.

This is the last chance to sow seeds that need frost in order to germinate (such as native tree and shrub seeds, and alpine plants).
Plant lily bulbs in pots and borders when mild. Summer bulbs, seed potatoes and onion sets will be available to buy from the middle of the month.

Shrubs & Trees

Plant roses, but avoid areas where roses were previously grown as this can lead to problems with replant diseases.

Continue to plant bare-root deciduous hedging plants and trees. Stakes should be put in place before the rootball to avoid damage to the roots.

Move established deciduous trees and shrubs, provided the ground is not frozen or waterlogged.

Take note of the most vibrant dogwoods (Cornus), Salix and white-stemmed Rubus shrubs for a display of coloured stems.

Seek out scented winter shrubs, such as Hamamelis ,Sarcococca and Chimonanthus and consider planting them for a winter display.


Keep tubs and containers tidy, cutting back and removing debris regularly. They can be mulched with compost or grit. Grit is aesthetically pleasing, and will reduce the surface puddling that can occur when light composts are beaten into a solid ‘cap’ by raindrops.

Some pots – particularly those sheltered by eaves or balconies – may need watering. Check the compost (at a hand’s depth) to see if it feels dry. Aim to keep pots moist (not too wet), but do not let them dry out.

Raise pots onto feet or bricks, if you have not done so already, to avoid them sitting in the wet.