Oak Leaf Gardening Monthly Cuttings
Newsletter 20 - January 2013
What to do now

Ornamental plants

  • Order summer flowering bulbs, eg dahlias, cannas, ginger lilies, eucomis, gladioli, begonias and gloriosa.
  • Check on stored bulbs/tubers for signs of rot.
  • Plant or move shrubs, hedging, trees and roses.
  • Continue to take hardwood cuttings.
  • Knock deep snow off hedges and shrubs so the weight doesn't splay or break branches.
  • Prune ivies, climbing hydrangeas and Virginia creepers.
  • Cut back the old growth on grasses (eg miscanthus and pampas grass).
  • Trim the leaves off hellebores so the flowers are more visible.
  • Remove dead flowers and leaves from winter/spring bedding to keep it fresh.
  • Sow annuals such as calendula and sweet peas.
  • Move self-sown foxgloves to where you want them to grow.
  • Start to sow tender perennials if you have a heated greenhouse/propagator.
Fruit and veg
  • Plant new fruit trees and bushes.
  • Prune congested apples and pears if you didn't do them last month.
  • Prune back blackcurrants, white currants, redcurrants, gooseberries and autumn fruiting raspberries if you haven't already done so.
  • Divide any congested clumps of rhubarb.
  • Check that stored fruit and veg aren't rotting.
  • Cover beds with black polythene or horticultural fleece where you want to plant early in the spring.
  • Sow early crops of salads, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflowers, peas, broad beans and maincrop onions in a heated propagator.
  • Order seed potatoes, onion sets, asparagus crowns and artichokes.
  • Chit first early potatoes that you want to force in pots under glass for very early crops.
General tasks
  • Once the 12th night has passed, start the new year being green by recycling your Christmas tree.
  • Clean out nesting boxes while they're vacant.
  • Keep bird feeders topped up and use a kettle of boiling water to defrost bird baths.
  • Have a good sort through your shed and gardening equipment to ensure everything's tidy and in good working order ready for spring.
  • Wash used pots and trays so they're ready for spring sowings.
  • While all’s quiet in the garden it’s a good time to do jobs like setting up butts to collect rain water.
  • While plants have died back, take the opportunity to repair and treat timber structures in the garden.
  • Brush snow off your greenhouse roof.
  • Make sure your greenhouse heater continues to work effectively.
  • Ventilate greenhouses on warmer days to keep the air circulating and reduce humidity.
  • Get a tree surgeon in to deal with any trees which need work while they are dormant.
Helleborus orientalisPlant of the month

Helleborus orientalis, the Christmas rose, is an evergreen, herbaceous perennial which is distinctive for its winter flowering time. It grows to about 45cm height and width and bears pretty pink, white or purple nodding flowers. Relatively low maintenance, this woodland plant suits many different garden styles but prefers a site in dappled shade. Find out more...

Problem of the monthBrown rot on a stored apple

Brown rot is a common fungal disease which affects the fruit, blossom and foliage of fruit trees including apples, pears, cherries and plums.

Brown, softened patches appear on fruit on the tree or in storage. In the spring blossom and leaves may wilt. It can lead to cankering of affected stems.

Affected parts should be removed and destroyed. Fungicides are available to control it. Find out more...

In the news

Funding to remove electricity pylons

Ofgen, the energy regulator, has announced that £500 million has been allocated to bury existing electricity lines which currently bestride National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Investment will also be provided to minimise the use of overhead cabling for new power lines.

Furthering research into fresh produce supply

HRH the Duke of Kent has opened the Produce Quality Centre, a new research facility which seeks to improve the handling of fresh produce. The initiative, a collaboration between East Malling Research and the University of Greenwich, will study how to improve consumer choice, energy efficiency, quality, nutrition and availability, while reducing waste, in all elements of food crop production.

Chelsea news

Ulf Nordfjell, designing his 3rd Chelsea Flower Show garden, has announced that his 2013 plans (for the Laurent-Perrier garden) will be a unification of French and British garden styles. Meanwhile, far away in Afghanistan, Prince Harry has been reviewing the plans he commissioned from designer Jinny Blom, for the Chelsea Garden representing his charity Sentebale. And the RHS have announced a special event competition for this centenary Chelsea Flower Show - they will be judging the best plants from each decade that the show has been running.


Keeping your garden wildlife happy over the winter

RobinWinter can be a tough time for our garden wildlife. These are our top 10 tips for helping birds and animals through the harsh months:

  1. If your garden doesn't have plenty of natural food sources for birds (such as berries and seeds left on plants over the winter) then keep your bird feeders well stocked.
  2. Use a floating device or electronic heater to keep ponds and water features free of ice over the winter. This will maintain an oxygen supply to creatures underwater and access to the water from above for others. Don't hit ice to crack it, this can send harmful shockwaves through the water. Put a saucepan full of hot water on the ice to gently melt it instead.
  3. Opinion is split on badgers and foxes in gardens, but if you do want to feed your local mammalian family then do so only as an extra 'treat', not to replace their usual diet. You need to ensure they do not become dependent on you. Feed them once or twice a week and on random days so they do not get into a particular habit.
  4. Clean feeders every few weeks to prevent a build up of deadly mould or parasites. Don't forget to clean water containers as well.
  5. When turning your compost heap in the winter be wary of toads, frogs, mice and other animals which may be overwintering in them.
  6. Clean out nesting boxes and put up new ones so they are ready for next year's feathered families. Birds start checking out potential homes in late winter, so make sure yours is looking inviting by then!
  7. Don't be too scrupulous in cutting down your herbaceous perennials, they can provide excellent overwintering spots for beneficial insects. Wait until the weather warms up a little before you cut them back.
  8. Provide an ice-free water supply for birds so they can both drink and wash in it.
  9. If you are burning garden waste check the bonfire carefully first to ensure there are no hedgehogs hibernating in it.
  10. Whatever you are doing to help the wildlife in your garden you need to keep it up, ideally throughout the year. Birds and animals may become dependent on the food or shelter you provide, so suddenly removing it can be more harmful then not providing it in the first place.

Find out more about creating a wildlife-friendly garden.


What's on this month

Work off all those mince pies with a brisk stroll around a garden this January:

  • 5th January - Flat-pack Nests, Cambridge University Botanic Garden, Cambridge.
  • 12th January - Bridport Potato Day, St Mary's Church Hall, Bridport, Dorset.
  • 12th to 13th January - Edible Gardening: Seasonal Advice, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh.
  • 18th January - Meet The Head Gardener: Winter Walk, Witley Court & Gardens, Great Witley, Worcestershire.
  • 19th to 20th January - Open Weekend With RSPB Walks & Talks, Waterperry Gardens, Nr Wheatley, Oxfordshire.
  • 20th January - Wassail Ceremony, Ryton Gardens, Coventry, Warwickshire.
  • 22nd January - Talk: From Timber To Treen, Useful Woods At Kew, Kew Gardens, London.
  • 26th to 27th January - RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, various locations.