10 must-dos this month
Contributing gardening editor Marianne Alexander’s handy checklist of essential chores to do in January
1 Keep bedding plants moist by watering early in the morning and mulching. Replace tired plants with heat-tolerant annuals like zinnias, vinca hybrids, marigolds, coreopsis, cosmos and gazanias.
2 Sow seeds of winter and spring-flowering annuals including primulas, Iceland poppies, stocks, cinerarias, Bellis perennis and violas in trays towards the end of January in cool areas. During hot dry spells, keep them moist in a cool but light position; protect from heavy rain.
3 Neaten lawns that weren’t mown during the festive season by cutting them back gradually then keeping the mower on a high during the hot, dry summer months. Feed with 2:3:4 or 3:1:5. Look out for lawn caterpillars and mole crickets, which you may hear chirping at night.
4 To repel insects like mosquitoes and flies, plant strong-scented plants in the garden or in pots near your outdoor sitting area. These include the peppermintscented Pelargonium tomentosum, lemon-scented P. citronellum and balm-scented
P. panduriforme as well as lemon grass, rosemary, lavender, mint and lemon thyme. 5 Maintain your rose-spraying regimen to control fungal outbreaks of mildew, black spot and rust. Give roses a midsummer prune. 6 Keep container plants well hydrated; if the potting medium has dried out, loosen the soil and water until bubbles stop coming to the surface. Immersing containers in a bucket of water works well.
7 Apply a generous 3–6cm thick mulch to bare soil before the heat of summer and after watering. Use rough compost, bark chips or straw. Camellias, azaleas, blue hydrangeas and gardenias prefer acid mulch.
8 Give cymbidium orchids an application of a low-nitrogen, high-potash fertiliser to promote the formation of flower spikes. Repeat monthly until the flower spikes open. Water and mist regularly in dry regions.
9 If pruning trees to let in more light, lift the canopy by taking out entire branches rather than giving the tree an all-over trim.
10 Cut back hail-damaged shrubs and trees to prevent the affected tissue from being infected. Trim fuchsias which have stopped flowering; boost with 3:1:5 fertiliser or an organic equivalent. Place faded hydrangea flowers underneath the bushes as a mulch.