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Gardening tips - get busy and plan for the year ahead

PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 January 2014

A good time to prune shrubs

A good time to prune shrubs

Archant

Get ahead with jobs in the garden as you plan for the New Year says Suzie Hanson, head gardener at Brodsworth Hall, South Yorkshire

The New Year is often a time when people make plans and promises and it’s the ideal time to refresh ideas for the garden. If you have some photos from last year, you could get those out to look at the colours and shapes of your plants and think about what you did and did not like and how you might want that to be different.

January is also about re-birth, or rather re-growth. Start sowing seeds to get them germinating slowly so that they can be planted out when the threat of frost has finally gone.

If you grow your own vegetables, or are interested in doing so, sow some seeds of broccoli and tomato in the greenhouse. They will crop earlier and you will get more cycles of growth from them, which gives you plenty of time to perfect your growing skills. Another advantage of getting started early is that should you lose everything from this first crop for whatever reason; slugs, birds or frost, you have a back-up plan as there is plenty of time to try again.

If you have some rhubarb in the garden, striking blades of pink against a rather stark garden, then the stalks are a delicious treat when there is little other fruit available. Rhubarb is normally pulled in late April, but if you cover the crowns now, you create a way in which they can be forced up much sooner. Removing the old leaves around the base and clearing a space, use a large pot, a dustbin or a decorative rhubarb forcer and cover the plant entirely. You can then harvest around mid to end February.

Another vegetable that reaps great rewards is garlic. This needs a long growing season in the UK so early planting is a must. If you plant them in trays this month, they will be ready to transfer to the garden in March or April.

Your annual bulbs will begin to push through first following the winter snowdrops and so consider preparing a few pots with summer bulbs in the greenhouse, nicely sheltered from the cold. If you have enough space and storage areas, you could plant some pots each month, which means that once growing begins, you will have a continual opportunity to roll out a cycle of perfectly blooming pots, as they will be developing and growing at different stages.

We always have any eye on our shrubs her at Brodsworth, perhaps because we have over 15 acres of predominantly shrub planted gardens. It is still a good time to do some hard pruning of your shrubs as you want to ensure that they hold a good shape and are the form and size for when the re-growth begins in the spring. It can also be quite therapeutic to methodically work through shaping your shrubs.

January is also a good time to look at fruit tree pruning. There is always some element to tinker with on a fruit tree and to ensure the tree is healthy and ready for fruiting later in the year. Remove any branches that are diseased or indeed crossing. Branches that are in contact with each other have the potential to cause wounds from rubbing as they grow. If the wounds get infected and get a disease in them, then they are likely to cause problems.

The most common fruit trees you might have in your garden are apple and pear and if it’s a big tree you have, then you don’t need to go all over it as that would take too long. It’s more a case of giving the tree a good check over, making sure that air can move through the middle and keeping a healthy shape.

Jobs for January

- Recycle your Christmas tree

- Ventilate the greenhouse on sunny days

- Put out food and water for hungry birds

- Squash mistletoe berries into apple tree branches to encourage plants to develop

- Rake up leaves before bulbs start poking through

- Spread a layer of compost around shrubs and along the base of hedges

- Pick faded flowers off pansies to prevent them setting seed

- Place a ball in a pond to prevent it from fully freezing over

Top tip

Seed catalogues often offer discounts around this time of year, so check the closing dates and make the most of the offers.

Brodsworth Hall is a beautiful Victorian house surrounded by a collection of grand gardens in miniature, lovingly restored to their Victorian splendour.

For more information contact

Brodsworth Hall & Gardens

Brodsworth

Doncaster

DN5 7XJ

01302 722598

english-heritage.org.uk/brodsworth

Facebook page BrodsworthHall

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