Welcome to the start of another great gardening year! With January here, it’ll be hugely rewarding to get outside and do something active. Besides benefitting from the fresh air and exercise, maintaining your garden during winter can help keep you motivated for when spring comes around. With just a little bit of effort, more vibrant blooms and stunning foliage are not too far away! So, let’s roll up our sleeves and start the year well with our list of 10 essential gardening jobs in January.
1) Recycle Your Christmas Tree
The holidays are over, and it’s time to tackle the aftermath! Did you know that there are many great ways to recycle your used Christmas tree?
If you have a living, potted Christmas tree, why not try planting the tree in your own garden and turning it into a living sanctuary for wildlife? Of course, this requires a suitable amount of space.
Otherwise, you can take it along to your local recycling centre for composting, as some will accept natural materials like trees and grass cuttings.
You can also break up the tree and use it as mulch around your garden. A garden wood chipper is ideal for doing this, but this is not essential.
Simply clip off the branches with some secateurs and saw the trunk into small sections. Then scatter the pieces around garden beds and they will soon start to break down into the soil, providing nourishment for future planting.
2) Plant Bare-Root Roses, Shrubs, Hedging and Ornamental Trees
While January may not be the ideal season for most planting activities, it is prime time to plant bare-root roses, shrubs and ornamental trees. Bare-root plants are dormant when purchased and require soaking in a bucket of water for several hours prior to planting. Selecting your favourite colours or varieties can add extra vibrancy to any garden.
One important caveat here is to only plant provided that the ground is not frozen. Also, when planting bare-root plants, aim to get them in the ground before buds start to show. If you leave it too late, they may suffer from transplant shock and fail to thrive.
3) Prune Dead or Damaged Branches from Trees and Shrubs
January is a great time to prune trees and shrubs, as this will help maintain their shape and promote healthy growth. When pruning, look out for any dead or damaged branches that should be removed using loppers or secateurs. This can help prevent the spread of disease to other parts of the garden.
Finally, don’t forget to tidy up any debris afterwards. You can add pruning waste to your compost heap or dispose of it at a local recycling centre.
4) Prune and Shape Apple and Pear Trees
January is also a good time to prune and shape apple and pear trees. Pruning will help reduce the number of fruit, but it will be important to leave enough on the tree to ensure pollination can take place.
Selectively thinning out overcrowded branches should help improve air circulation within the canopy, making for healthier and more productive fruit. When pruning, aim to keep the branches at a 45-degree angle and avoid leaving stubs as these can invite disease.
5) Dig Up or Move Perennial Plants
If you have any dead perennials that need clearing out, then January is a good time to do so. Just remember that many herbaceous perennials, in particular, will die back to ground level in the winter, as part of their natural growth cycle. Therefore, if you’re unsure if a plant has actually died or is just waiting for spring, always best to wait for another season.
You might also want to re-organise your perennial plants. Perhaps they’re not quite in the right spot and would benefit from a new location. January can be an ideal month to do this as the plants are dormant and unlikely to suffer too much distress from being moved around. Make sure to dig up the plants with as much of their root ball intact as possible, and replant them in an area where they will receive sufficient sunlight.
6) Weed and Mulch Garden Beds and Borders
Weeds don’t stop growing in winter, so it’s important to stay on top of them. Use a hand weeder or garden fork to remove any that have taken up residence in your beds and borders.
Adding a fresh layer of mulch at this time of year can have multiple benefits. It will help keep weeds at bay, as well as conserve moisture in the soil. It also helps to regulate soil temperature, protecting plant roots from cold weather.
If you mulch with things like bark or wood chippings, then this will also break down over time, adding valuable nutrients to the soil.
7) Plan Vegetable Beds and Crop Rotation for the Spring
If you’re planning on growing vegetables this spring, then January is a great time to get that organised. It’s important to ensure your existing vegetable beds are free from weeds and optimised with the right soil improvements.
If you’re thinking about changing your beds around or adding things like raised beds, then this is a great time of year to do it. You can buy ready-made kits or make your own DIY raised beds from various materials.
You should also consider crop rotation – planting certain vegetables in different spots each year as part of an annual cycle – this helps to preserve soil fertility and reduce pest problems. January can be a good time to figure out what will go where so that you’re ready come springtime.
8) Maintain Fences, Sheds and Outdoor Structures
January can be a good time to check any existing garden structures, such as sheds, fences, pergolas or gazebos. Chances are, it will be easier to see them up close when most greenery has disappeared.
Make sure any screws or nails are firmly in place and take stock of any repairs that might need doing before the spring. While you can get good access, it’s also a good time to paint or stain wooden surfaces. Just be aware that it’s usually best to apply treatments when the temperature is above 10 degrees Celsius.
It’s also worth checking your outdoor furniture for winter damage. Cleaning, repairing or restoring your furniture is a great job to fill any winter downtime in the garden.
9) Clean Pots and Greenhouses Ready for Use
If you have a greenhouse, it can be well worth cleaning the windows and staging areas to get them ready for use when spring arrives. This is also a great time to clean out any containers and pots that you may have used over the summer, as they’re likely to be full of debris like dead leaves and leftover plant matter.
Simply give them a rinse with the hosepipe or clean them with some soapy water. You could also use a pressure washer to get rid of any stubborn dirt or grime, just be careful not to damage the surface finish.
10) Start Early Seeds and Indoor Sowings
Starting seeds in January can be a great way to shake off those winter blues. Planting and nurturing seeds is an incredibly satisfying experience, whether it’s for a large-scale garden or a few small plants on that sunny windowsill.
As the chilly weather persists, starting seeds offers an exciting way to begin feeling some of that springtime anticipation—a chance to remind ourselves that beautiful plants are just around the corner!
Getting started might be more difficult if it’s your first time as there is a bit of planning involved, but with enough research and know-how, you’ll be more than equipped to handle the process at home.
There are various bits of fairly inexpensive kit that you can try to help ensure success. A heated propagator can take the guesswork out of getting tricker varieties off to a flying start.
You can also get indoor grow lights, which will help to give your seedlings a much-needed boost during those short, grey winter days.
Start small and remember that as soon as those little green shoots start to emerge, you’ll need to think about where to store all of your little seedlings, where they’ll get enough light and be safe from frost. The more ambitious growers might consider investing in a cold frame or greenhouse to accommodate this, and it’s a good time of year to start making preparations.
Don’t Forget to Care for the Wildlife in Your Garden
Finally, don’t forget about the wild animals that inhabit your garden. January is a difficult time for them too, so make sure you provide plenty of food and water if you can.
This could be something as simple as leaving out some bird seed or nuts, or as ambitious as setting up a mini wildlife pond with native plants in it.
If you have the space, you could even consider creating a wildlife-friendly habitat, like a stone pile or log pile. This will provide shelter and winter roosts for small animals like hedgehogs and toads.
Look out for Robins, Blue Tits and other birds that like to make regular visits, as well as hedgehogs, frogs and other creatures.
January can be a good time to start plotting and planning for the year ahead in your garden. Whether it’s making repairs, tidying up beds or getting ready to sow, there are plenty of small jobs that you can do to get the ball rolling and prepare for spring.
With the right preparation, your garden will be ready and raring to go in no time!
So embrace the colder weather and take advantage of those quieter days; get out there, get your hands dirty and make this year the best gardening year yet!
What have you been up to in your garden this January? Which jobs get you excited – and which have you been putting off? Let us know in the comments!