January Gardening Tips


January is one of those months when there is so little to do on the allotment or garden as, more often than not, the soil is either frozen or waterlogged and should generally be left. However, you can still finish winter digging, weather permitting.

Well-rotted manure or organic material can be added to the soil surface and it will become incorporated naturally. Also, a good idea when you are digging is to apply lime to the surface at 100g per square metre (3oz per square yard) especially if you grew brassicas the year before. Getting the soil prepared now will save time feeding later in the year and will often enhance crop growth and yield.

If you have a greenhouse, cloches, or space in the house, then now is a good time to plant a few seeds ready for the planting out season. Onion, leek, tomato, chilli and aubergine seeds are a few that can be planted now to give them a good start.

At this time of year, rhubarb can be forced: what could be tastier than pale pink sticks of rhubarb harvested in late February?

Firstly, dig some manure around the roots and then cover them using pots or an upturned bucket, making sure any holes are covered to completely cut out the light. To speed up the process of forcing, you can also insulate the pot by covering the outside of it with straw, bubble wrap or old carpet. Crowns which have been used for forcing should not be harvested in summer or in the following year, because the forcing process weakens the plant and the stems will not grow as strongly.

Towards the end of the month, seed potatoes should be available and you can start chitting them ready for planting: put them rose-side uppermost and use old egg boxes or seed trays.

Other jobs include:

  • prune apple and pear trees but not stone fruits such as cherry and damson; they should be summer pruned.
  • plant bare-rooted trees and bushes.
  • support Brussels sprouts and sprouting broccoli.
  • protect plants from cold and check stakes and ties.
  • start a ‘bean trench’ by digging down about 60cm, add a layer of newspaper and then start filling it with your organic kitchen waste.

Each time you add a batch of waste, cover with a layer of soil: continue until the trench is full and leave it to rot down.
And if the weather is foul, sit by the fire with a cuppa, or other warming beverage and plan for the year ahead, read gardening books and order from seed catalogues.

Happy 2021…let’s hope that it’s a fruitful one!

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