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Gardening tips – January 2013

Happy New Year, everyone.  Although we can expect January to bring us more cold weather, it is also the time to look forward to Spring and even if it does not seem like it, the days are getting longer.

This is the time of year when houseplants are most appreciated.  Azaleas, cineraria and cyclamen will all help to cheer things up.  Do not over water, and most of these plants like cool conditions.  I am enjoying the amaryllis (I know they should be called hippeastrum, but it never seems to be the same) that I bought at Lidl in ceramic pots for £4 each.  The key is to have them kept in average warmth 15C and over with bright light and some sun.  Water when growth begins.  Allow the surface to dry out between soakings and use tepid water.

When your seeds arrive from the supplier keep them in a cool dry place until required.  Protect pea seeds in particular because mice love them, and they have already got into our garden shed where they have started on anything that they can reach.  Remember paper is no barrier to sharp teeth, and makes lovely nesting material.

Rhubarb can be forced using an upturned bucket or tub.  This should be covered with garden fleece to keep off any frost.  Hopefully, you remembered to give it a good mulch earlier, because it is a hungry feeder and will reward you for it.

In mid-January you need to start looking for new seed potatoes, otherwise the variety that you want will almost certainly be sold out.  When they arrive, keep them in a frost-free place and stand the tubers, eye-end uppermost, in shallow boxes.  If you can get large egg trays (called ‘Keyes’ trays, and are designed to hold 30 eggs) these are ideal for keeping the tubers upright and just separated to prevent any infection spreading.

You may want to think of biological pest control.  There have been huge developments and you can get natural solutions to pests such as vine weevil and whitefly.  In fact there are over 10 different pests and diseases that can be controlled in this way.

To get the best onions for the Capel Summer Show (Saturday August 17th 2013, this year make a note!) apart from starting the first sowings this month, you should give a good dressing of wood ash on the site of the bed that you will use, since they really like potash.

January is the time to prune gooseberries and the red and/or white currants.  If you have a grapevine these should be pruned before the middle of the month.  In late winter it is a good idea to give your apple trees a feed.  Either provide a potassium-rich general fertiliser, or, for dessert apples grown in soil apply 140g per square metre (4 oz. per square yard, in old money) Growmore general fertiliser.  For an organic feeding regime, substitute blood, fish and bone for the general fertiliser.

On cold, frosty days when it is difficult to get out, go ‘shedding’ and look after your garden tools.  The blades of your secateurs should be cleaned by removing any sap deposits using fine steel wool.  Finish off by giving them a spray with WD-40 or some other light mineral oil.

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