What to do in January

Water Water Water! The lakes have been suffering from something of a drought for some weeks accompanied by strong winds. Any new plantings from spring will have needed to be watered throughout summer. Anyone who has gardened in the Lakes District will know it is no easy task – 2015 was a year of extremes in an extreme environment. These extremes make life difficult for plants that haven’t evolved to deal with them – most of the plants we like best. Signs of a plant weakened by the environment are pests and disease, more obviously as yellowing of leaves.

There is plenty we can do to make our plants healthier and more robust. In a nutshell make sure they are well watered, well fed and are in the right place.

When going away or if you are finding keeping the garden watered is a chore, set up a water smart irrigation system. Add a timer and you won’t even need to turn it on. Irrigation systems can be made for any situation, from a few pots to a garden centre. Let your irrigation system do the work while you enjoy the throes of summer.

If you haven’t fed your garden and you notice things are looking a little jaundiced, get some feed down. You may have fed your garden in spring but if it was a three month slow release fert it may be finished now, so a top up will be due. Triabon is great for pots and blood and bone is good for hedges and shrubs. Fish and seaweed are great for flowering plants. The vegetable garden is steaming through nutrients at this time of year, so give it a top up with a slow release fertiliser, and for fruiting and flowering plants feed every two weeks with a high potassium liquid feed such as Tomorite. No fruit or flowers yet? Boost growth with Powerfeed until you have some flowers, then use Tomorite.

Keep pruning Wisteria in summer. Prune all new shoots back to 20cm, leave the shoots you are training to become your woody framework. See how to prune Wisteria for a full guide on pruning Wisteria.

Feed houseplants with a liquid fertiliser once a week. They can even go outside, out of direct sunlight, to benefit from a bit of rainfall.

Keep deadheading roses to encourage further flowering of repeat and continuous flowering varieties. Carpet and hedging roses can be cut back after the first flush of flowers finish to keep them looking smart. Prune on dry fine days and keep your secateurs sharp. If you’re having trouble with pests or disease spray with a rose spray.

Thin heavy crops of apples, pears and plums. This will give you larger fruit, reduce the risk of fruit rot and minimise the risk of breaking valuable fruiting branches and spurs.

Peg down your strawberry runners for new strawberry plants that will fruit next year and you’ll never have to buy strawberries again.

Mites and scale insect are a problem over the dry period. Use a mineral oil like Conqueror oil and cover all the leaves. If you have a bad infestation on a large area use Confidor, a systemic insecticide which circulates in the plant and kills the bug when it feeds. While being more effective than other contact insecticides, Confidor is a strong chemical and a neonicotinoid, so be considerate using it especially on flowering plants. Aphids are easily controlled by pyrethrum or mineral oils.

Hydrangeas are flowering their socks off now. Before buying that tempting blue hydrangea test the pH of your soil. A low pH will keep your hydrangea blue but a high pH will turn it pink. If your hydrangeas are white or green you don’t have to worry. It’s easier to plant your hydrangea in the right place than trying to change the pH of the soil. Easy pH meters are cheap and available, you will get a reading within seconds.

Raise the height of lawn mower blades. Longer lawns are more drought tolerant than those mown short. No amount of lawn feed will make up for a lack of water.

Sow vegetable seeds now, including endive, lettuce and salad leaves, beetroot, radishes, spring cabbages, kohl rabi, Swiss chard, winter spinach, Oriental greens, chicory, spring onions, swede, and turnips for green tops.

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