Peter’s Gardening Tips for January

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First thoughts you must be mad after all this rain and flooding, but there are things you can do…..

Machinery – perfect time to book in your mower, strimmer, hedge cutter, blower for servicing. You should get a winter discount for most machinery servicing, normally 10% discount – haggle!

Tools in the Shed – Rub down spades, forks, hoes etc with a wire brush, remove all the caked on soil/rust off the metal. Oil them, even using old engine oil on a rag and wipe over the metal. Also, check the tool handles for wood-worm, small pin like holes and treat with wood preservative/wood-worm killer. A job very well worth doing and very satisfying to see your tools all clean and ready for the coming season.

Garden Tools

Other Indoor jobs – Re-use plant labels by cleaning them, a scouring pad seems to work well, cleaning fluid, a rubber erasure for pencils.. Wash old seed trays and pots with hot soapy water or a pressure washer. Check any indoor plants for bugs and beasties lurking and treat. Check stored vegetables, fruit, bulbs and tubers.

Shopping – Armchair Most seed catalogues are available on-line or by phone request now, so check out the latest stock for the coming season.

Outdoors – Clear gutters and drains of leaves, and also check sheds, greenhouses and garages for any leaks?

Damage caused by the storm – Loosened shrubs from wind rock need cutting back or firming in with your boots. Cut back shrub, hybrid T and floribunda Roses if not tackled already by 50 %. Stake and tie trees and shrubs loosened or fallen, cut back damaged branches, torn branches need cutting back below the break to help them back into health. Climbers pulled away from trellis, walls and fences tie back in or cut back if badly damaged. Check all tree ties and wires holding up plants to structures that they are not too tight, I have found wire strangling roses, wisteria and fruit trees on many occasions!

Try to keep off the lawned areas of the garden as much as possible, I know this is difficult with fences down and repair work to do, but it will benefit long-term.

Shopping at Garden Centres and Nurseries – Seed potatoes, shallots, onions, garlic are also arriving in stock now, and many of them will have sales on. If you do buy any plants in pots, don’t plant now, leave them outside in a sheltered corner all together and plant out in March/April time. Summer bulbs, corms and tubers will also be arriving like Dahlias and Gladiolis, keep an eye out!

Planning for the Season to come – You may want to create some raised beds for vegetables and flowers, work out which vegetables did well last year, consider trying something new. Talk and discuss with your friends and share ideas?


Winter Honeysuckle

Winter Honeysuckle


Think about Scent in the Garden – It might seem obvious but the best place for scented plants are near the doors and windows to the house, also by a seating area, patio, bench, pergola, walk-way and paths. There are plenty of choices even in winter, Daphnes, Winter Sweet (Chimonanthus), Christmas Box (Sarcococca), Witch Hazel (Hamamelis), Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera Winter Beauty)… to name a few. Its not too late to order in Sweet Pea seeds and a must have are Roses for scent – the Nations favourite plant. Roses can be ordered now bare-root (no soil around roots and not in a pot). They generally arrive in a plastic bag or damp hessian, plant into pots if the ground is too wet and plant out into their final position in the Spring.

Nest boxes – Wearing gloves empty out the old nests from last year, you may even find a friendly mouse. Birds are actively looking for a nesting site now, when putting up a nest box put it where cats can’t reach, its not facing south as cooks in the sun, not too close to a feeding station and out of the prevailing winds, your garden will be home to many more birds?

bird nest box

Bird Feeders and Bird Baths – Most at this time of year are pretty foul after all this rain, clean out and throw away all wet food. Ideally, take the feeders apart and wash thoroughly in hot soapy water and allow to dry, remembering to wash your own hands thoroughly afterwards.

Any Other Jobs – Final job is to empty saucers of water from all outdoor pots, and put feet or tiles under pots where possible. If you can manage them, move all the planted pots together without saucers, into a more sheltered corner for frost protection.

Take time-out and go for a walk or even spend time in your own garden. Stand still, stop, look and listen. Take a deep breath and use those senses, including smell. You will be amazed at what you can see in a few minutes even at this time of year, enjoy!

That’s enough from me, happy gardening despite the weather and enjoy the catalogues, my last tip, check the insulation in the greenhouses, heaters are working and the fleece is to hand, cold weather is on the way!!

First snow drops up, yippee!

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Peter Mills

I love everything to do with natural history, wildlife, biodiversity and of course horticulture - basically the big outdoors. I grew up with very good teachers namely my parents and my French grandfather who was a superb grower of vegetables. At Hadlow College I studied a three year OND in Horticulture. I had a market stall selling plants. Went onto wholesaling house plants to florists and garden centres across southern England. In 1986 I joined Clandon Park Garden Centre as manager. Whilst there I started my career as a gardening radio presenter with the BBC Southern Counties Radio. This continued for 15 years, building up valuable contacts with the RHS Wisley, live broadcasts from Chelsea & Hampton Court Flower shows, South of England & Surrey County shows etc. Since 1998 I have been self-employed, working as a Head Gardener and in private gardens . Through the RHS Advisory Department at Wisley I advise on horticultural problems in members gardens, including pest & disease problems, lawn-care advice, pruning of wisterias, fruit trees, roses, wildlife gardening, growing fruit & vegetables, creating wildflower meadows, identifying plants and control of pernicious weeds. Autumn 2016 finds me at the Autumn Flower Show 6-8 of September at RHS Wisley and Taste of Autumn Sunday 23rd of October. Sunday 11th of September I am cycling from London to Brighton for Perennial ( Gardeners Benevolent Fund) who helped me when I broke my leg badly in 2014. Had the plate removed in February this year. My Just Giving page is Perennial is a Fabulous Charity who help anyone working in horticulture. I didn't think I would need their help at the age of 52! They were brilliant and helped us as a family. It's my turn to repay their help and others too! John Ambrose and I have raised over £ 2000.00 thank you all. I am an extremely lucky guy who loves what I do and the trade called Horticulture!

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Alan Bailey
18th Jan 2014
Thanks for voting!
Last year I bought some reduced price Maris Peer potatoes from Tesco. Instead of eating them all, as they had started to sprout I planted a lot in newly cleared ground alongside my Leylandii hedge. I didn't look after them but I got a good yield - as good as any I have grown from seed potatoes. This year many of my stored homegrown Charlottes and Lady Balfour have started sprouting, so they are now for use as seed potatoes - now I only have to decide where to plant them as my ducks are now living in my veg plot.
Alan Bailey
18th Jan 2014
Thanks for voting!
Mole Valley Farmers in Devon & Somerset now have scottish certified seed potatoes in 3kg nets @ £3.49 or £6.00 for 2. - 1st earlies, 2nd earlies and maincrop. Mine are now in egg trays in the conservatory for chitting.
Iris Burtwell
18th Jan 2014
Thanks for voting!
I found all this information very helpful. I will be looking out for seeds and seed potatoes for my allotment soon.
At the moment I am eagerly awaiting the flowing of all the hyacinths I have in my 2 window boxes.

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