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Is January a month to be avoided in the garden

01:00 Fri 21st Dec 2001 |

A.� While December can be pretty bleak, January is the month that the garden bites back, particularly in the shape of snowdrops, which should start emerging towards the end of the month.

In terms of what you can get up to out there, the weather is obviously the decisive factor. Last winter was a bit of a wash out, and no ground, especially heavy soils, should be dug when they are waterlogged, it does more harm than good.

Thankfully the rain has held off this year so far, but instead you may find the spade stays unemployed if winter temperatures have frozen the ground.

Q.� What if the weather is relatively mild and dry

A.� In that case take advantage and dig over any beds that you didn't get round to earlier on, adding manure or compost where necessary. This is the last real chance you'll have to do this to reap benefits in spring.

Vacant ground or new beds should be forked and gently turned over to get air into the soil and help it break down in the frosts.

Q. What about the lawn

A.� If the grass is frozen try and stay off it, as stepping on it will damage the blades. If the weather is mild it is a good idea to spike it with a fork, especially where it has got compacted and muddy. Also give the lawn a good rake to remove leaves and any other debris that might have fallen on it.

Q.� Is there any pruning to be done

A.� January is a good month for pruning fruit trees like apples and pears, removing crossing and weak growth and cutting back to healthy buds on main stems.

This is also the time to prune late flowering clematis to about 12 inches of the ground. Wall climbers like ivy and hydrangeas should also be brought under control. Take out any weak or exposed growth that could get snapped off and damage the plant.

Q.� The greenhouse is a little warmer. What can we do in there

A.� Keep an eye on greenhouse plants and removed dead leaves. Greenhouse plants should be kept out of cold drafts but do need some ventilation and should be watered little but regularly. You can also sow seeds of annuals like Mimulus and Gloxinias. Make sure to keep the greenhouse clean and sterile to prevent pests taking refuge in them.

Q.� What about the vegetable garden

A.� Get ordering unusual or sought after vegetable seeds from the catalogues in readiness for spring. If the weather is mild you can sow a few early peas and broad beans in a sheltered part of the garden for an early crop and rhubarb can go in.

Otherwise continue to clear up and add to the compost heap, keeping the hoe handy. Any diseased or pest infested material should be burnt.

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By Tom Gard

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