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Gardener's Diary 

                                   January 2009


robinJanuary, and the start of a new year; an optimistic month and a time to shake off the gloom of the dreary, dark months of early winter..    

January is a good month for wandering around  garden centres, evaluating what`s new, or cheap in the sales, without the hassle of crowds. Staff seem to have more time to stop and answer queries or just chat after the mad rush of Christmas, and of course in the heated greenhouses with their glorious scent of indoor flowering plants it’s not difficult to imagine being in a tropical jungle.

January can be a mild month, which allows us to have a few hours pottering in the garden, getting some much valued fresh air and exercise, wrapped up well with plenty of layers of course. Gone are the days it seems, of closing our gardens up for the winter months, as recent milder winters in the UK allow all year round gardening. 

beansWith the recession making itself felt, it might be well worth considering growing your own fruit and vegetables. Last year we turned the lower half of our garden into a kitchen garden and even in the first year lived well off our produce, with plenty still stacked in the freezers. This year should produce even more rewards. It's not difficult growing salad stuff, vegetables for summer and winter and fruit.

This year we hope to also make our own jams and chutneys from surplus produce - Why not give it a go?




An introduction from Rosemary Martin...

I have been gardening now as a hobby for about thirty years, but have no formal training..  I don't have a favourite style of gardening, traditional is nice, but I also think the modern trends work well. 

This column adds a new dimension to my interest in all aspects of horticulture and will hopefully help others find pleasure in this healthy and therapeutic pastime  ...  

Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife, remembering to tell me which country you are from..  

Click here for previous editions of Gardener's Diary..

Tips and jobs for the month..

(Depending on the weather of course!)


Bad weather tips and jobs

  • If we have snow, try to clear it off the trees and shrubs as soon as you can, to stop it bending or breaking the branches. Use a long-handled broom to knock it off.
  • Don`t walk on frosty lawns as the black footprints left behind will take ages to disappear  
  • In prolonged frosty weather keep a small area of your pond ice-free. This allows the escape of gases resulting from the decomposition of vegetation on the bottom of the pond which, if trapped, may asphyxiate the fish.
  • After a sharp frost check that winter bedding such as wallflowers have not been lifted. If this happens await the thaw and firm the plants back. 
  • Turn off the water supply to your outside tap and make sure there is no residue water in the pipes.
  • Cover any tender plants with paper or horticultural fleece if frost is expected.
  • Salt or grit paths and driveways if they get icy.

Indoor jobs

  • Wash and disinfect any seed trays or pots that are going to be used during the coming season.
  • You can make early sowings of fine seeded bedding plants like petunia, lobelia and fibrous rooted begonias in a heated propagator, but they cannot be put in the garden until June in the UK. Do you really want to nurture them for five months? Leave seed sowing until April if you can.. 
  • Sow greenhouse tomatoes, peppers and aubergines in heat
  • If you potted up bulbs such as hyacinths and narcissi for indoor display, bring them indoors when the buds are just showing. Place them first in a cool room with as light a position as possible to ensure the foliage grows slowly and evenly with getting `leggy`
  • Take some time right now to plan this year's vegetable plot so that you know what to order.  
  • Choose this year`s flower seeds from your catalogues and place your orders now to be sure of your first choice of varieties.

Outdoor mild weather jobs

  • If the grass continues to grow, mow it with the mower blades set high. Grass should be cut no lower than 2.5cm and the cuttings should be removed.
  • On a mild day, empty the greenhouse, sweep it out well, wash it down, scrub down timbers and benches, and generally disinfect with Jeyes Fluid.
  • Get the vegetable patch or allotment off to an early start, by warming the soil; Place a row of cloches or a stretch of clear polythene in a sunny area, in preparation for new sowings in a few weeks time.
  • January is a great month for pruning most deciduous trees and shrubs. Do not prune spring flowering plants, like forsythia as you would be removing their spring flowers. These shrubs can be pruned when they have finished flowering.
  • Plant roses or shrubs if the ground is not frozen.
  • If your mower needs  sharpening, servicing or any new parts, this is the time to do it.


There is absolutely no excuse for piling on those extra pounds with all this gardening waiting to be done! And you'll feel really invigorated after a couple of hours outside on a winter day..





Amazon book - Gardens of the National Trust. When the National Trust decided to take on the care of gardens, the aim was that these would be the very best of their kind in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Trust now has the finest collection of gardens ever assembled under one ownership..

Volunteering with the National Trust

Volunteers are active in all parts of the National Trust, from the new central office in Swindon to the summits of Snowdonia and Divis Mountain near Belfast.

View their latest opportunities, or find out more about the kind of roles and different places you can volunteer:

Still with the National Trust, some of the most visited National Trust properties are now holding regular farmers' and food markets.  Click here for details  and dates.



RHS gardens


Their four flagship gardens not only provide year-round interest and offer a wide range of courses, talks and demonstrations, they also demonstrate the best gardening practices, new techniques and exciting new plants to try in your garden.

Or go to their website for a diary of all other events at:-

Do you take advantage of the BBC Gardening website for information? I find it a valuable source of information, for up to date legislation, countryside matters and useful information such as plant pests and diseases, which saves me ploughing through all my gardening books, with the knowledge that their information is bang up to date...


Thompson & Morgan LogoThompson & Morgan 


Visit where full information is available on their product varieties and orders can be taken on-line.  Have a look to see what is new and any special seasonal offers


Some places to visit... 



The Eden Project


The living theatre of plants and people
The Eden Project is a gateway into the world of plants and people. A meeting place for all to discover how we depend on plants and how we can help to manage and conserve them for our mutual survival.


Kew Gardens two locations:-

Tel: 020 8332 5655 (24 hr)
Fax: 020 8332 5197

Royal Botanic Gardens

Tel: 01444 894066 (24 hr)
Fax: 01444 894069

Royal Botanic Gardens
Wakehurst Place
Nr Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH17 6TN


The National Botanic Gardens of Scotland comprise:

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Scotland's Premier Garden

Benmore Botanic Garden, Argyll
Argyll's Magnificent Mountainside Garden

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Borders
Wonderful Woodland Garden

Logan Botanic Garden, Galloway
Scotland's Most Exotic Garden

The National Botanic Garden of WalesThe National Botanic Garden of Wales

The star attraction here is the 91 metre long domed glasshouse, that houses landscapes normally found in the Mediterranean. This would be a super place to visit on a chilly day...




Some websites of interest to gardeners:-


Carry on Gardening - The easier gardening web site from ThriveGardening is an important part of many people's lives. You don't have to give up gardening because of accident or illness, the onset of disability or the problems associated with growing older. The information on their website is designed to provide you with the information to Carry on Gardening.

Carry on Gardening was initiated by the horticultural charity Thrive and is funded by the National Lottery Charities Board.  It brings together information on easy ways of gardening gathered over 23 years by Thrive and research carried out since the early 1970s by Mary Marlborough Centre, Oxford, on tools and equipment for disabled and older people. 



Useful reading:-


"The Yellow Book" contains information of all Gardens of England and Wales open for charity, and can be bought priced ?5 from National Gardens Scheme

National Trust Gardens Handbook is ?6.99 and the new edition is out in May  Telephone 01394 389 950 or see their website

Amazon book - A year at Kew  Amazon book - Gardens Through Time: 200 Years of the English Garden Amazon book - RHS Plants for Places: 1000 Tried and Tested Plants for Every Soil, Site and Usage (RHS) Amazon book - RHS Encyclopedia of Gardening: RHS Bi-centennial Edition (Royal Horticultural Society)
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