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Gardener's Diary            January

Gardener`s Diary is a regular feature of run by Rosemary Martin, who is semi retired.  She says anyone can enjoy gardening whether they have a large or small garden, can`t tell a dandelion from a daisy, or are aged 9 or 90… Here you will be able to see what jobs you should be doing in the garden month by month, get ideas for spectacular seasonal planting schemes, read previews on new plants and products, find out where to buy them, and get up-to-date news of forthcoming events and places to visit. 


For those of you that have never dabbled in the "black art" of gardening you will first need to get some basic knowledge from a good gardening book. You will find some within this article as examples...


But first an introduction from Rosemary...    


I have been gardening now for about thirty years, long enough for my husband to know that it`s wise to bury his head in a newspaper when I get the secateurs out...  I don`t have a favourite style of gardening, traditional is nice but I also think the modern trends work well. Plants in my garden have to be resilient as they get moved around frequently, and my husband has been heard  to mutter  “I don`t remember that tree being there this morning..”

Hobbies have come and gone over the years but only gardening has endured, and now in retirement this column adds a new dimension to the hobby, 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..




Thirty third edition - January 2004

January, 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..  I enjoy a leisurely session wandering around some of our local garden centres at this time of year, evaluating what`s new or trendy without the hassle of the summer time visitors. Also the staff seem to have more time to stop and answer questions or just chat. It is particularly enjoyable walking round the heated greenhouses with their glorious scent of indoor flowering plants and not difficult to imagine for a moment being in a tropical jungle.

It 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. So instead of paying for expensive sessions in the gym, get out in the garden for some invigorating and healthy exercise.. 

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 has not been lifted. If this happens await the thaw and firm the plants back. Prune off any frost blackened stems from shrubs.

  • 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.

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

  • Bring potted bulbs such as hyacinths and narcissi  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`

  • Exhibition onions should be sown under glass. Use a soil-based compost and keep in full light, but cool and frost-free.

  • 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 if it is still available (I have seen it in DIY shops, despite rumours of it being banned)

  • 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 need sharpening, servicing or any new parts, this is the time to do it.


You see, there is absolutely no excuse for piling on those extra pounds with all this gardening waiting to be done! You will feel so good and invigorated after a couple of hours outside on a winter`s day..



Some of your recent gardening queries 

Keep the e-mails with your gardening problems coming (Please tell me which country you live in)

Laterlife is pleased to support the project below:-

Designed to stimulate the senses and provide a haven of peace, a place to chill-out and unwind from the stress of modern living. A garden designed specifically to be "Positive About Disabled People" and raise funds for people with Multiple Sclerosis.

Take a virtual trip around the garden, through different countries, its monthly photo galleries & artwork, explore and discover the plants, birds and wildlife, water features and wind-chimes, as we endeavour to describe the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch of the various areas. 

We hope you enjoy your visit to the Sensory Garden Project  


And some places to visit... 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 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...



Keep the e-mails with your gardening problems coming

Have a look at previous editions of Gardener`s Diary




Some websites of interest to gardeners:- 


Alan Titchmarsh MBE, TV gardener, writer, broadcaster and thoroughly nice person. Just a few choice words to describe the peoples` favourite TV gardener. See his website....



Thompson and Morgan: 


A growing resource for gardeners worldwide. The site includes the international online seed catalogues, the young plants catalogue (UK only), the wholesale seeds catalogue, together with the award winning Germination Times and a host of other useful information.


Gardening 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. 







Good 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

RHS Garden Finder is 12.99 from Dorling Kindersley




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