January in the Garden

Author: JM   Date Posted:30 December 2018 

January in the Garden main image January in the Garden image


January for many gardeners  is a time of 'holding the fort' as the watering regime steps up in the face of high temperatures and maintenance demands increase.

If left unfettered, the abundance of late spring and early summer all too quickly descends into chaos - a little work now will save a great deal more later.




If ,like us, you are not keen on 'dead-stuff ' hanging around your garden sullying its  freshness  then January can be a very busy month.

  • Dead-heading and cut-backs  are the order of the day in January - promptly followed by deep watering to ensure plants leap forward into new growth.
  • January is a good time to take soft-wood cuttings as cut-back plants put on new-growth.( just don't go on holidays immediately after)
  • Tender Salvias are getting into their stride this month . Some of the twiggier species grow so rapidly they can become unstable -either prune back or thrust multiple stakes inside the plant to stabilise it.
  • Now is the time to take cutting of tender perennials to take the place of this years residents. It is much easier to store small well-rooted young plants than ungainly clumps of  dug roots.
  • We have found old clumps of Achillea are best lifted at this time of year in order to secure a fresh flowering later in the season. As clumps get woodier they become increasingly shy in providing a second display in autumn.
  • Oriental Poppies will need cutting down now  but if not too crowded in the border will often rebound in cooler autumn weather with a second flowering.




  • Late planted Dahlias can have their leaders tipped out to encourage branching  - this makes for both a bushier plant and better sized stems for picking.
  • Liquid feeding of Dahlias will help with the bud count. Choose a tomato food which is high of potassium.
  • Growers of competition Dahlias use a 'small but often ' approach to irrigation  which makes sense when you look at the limited root system of the Dahlia crown




Ideally, dead-heading and pruning of flowering shrubs should be done immediately after flowering but with so much else happening  in December,   January is often the first opportunity to get stuck into this chore.


  • Remove the largest of the flowered limbs from the centre of the plant. These branches will have the flakiest bark. Removing branches from the centre promotes  new vigorous shoots to replace them.
  • Once flowering Antique roses can have their old floered stems removed to make way for the vigorous watershoots that will replace them, Dead-heading and light pruning of once flowering climbers such as Albertine  as well as Noisette and rambler types will make life easier come winter.
  • Heavy mulching and the occasional deep watering  of pruned  shrubs will keep them on the move over the next few months.
  • All Clematis continue to make growth even as they are flowering , so it is important to keep training them to avoid a birds-nest effect at the end of the season. This is particularly the case with the late flowering viticella hybrids and C. maximowicziana. Both look so much more refined if spread out over an area of netting or evenly over a large shrub.



  • We find 'a little but often' is the easiest way to go with our hedges, particularly with their tops which account for half the work. Removing the tips  with an adjustable pole hedger means the clippings will easily dry and fall through the hedge in a day or so which eliminates a good deal of extra work.
  • If we are running late with hedging our English Box or it has been a wet spring and growth remains soft until this month we make sure we choose as cool a day as possible to trim and ensure the plants are well water before or after the trim which will reduced the scorching of cut-leaves.



  • With heat and irrigation comes growth and  a lots of it,- all of that growth removed means extra feeding - a slow release fertilizer ( 3 to 5 months) at the beginning of the season will take care it.
  • Healthy lawns stave off weed invasion but even they have a hard time dealing with clover. If dealt with early rather later a weaker solution of a proprietary herbicide can be used.




January is the month for sowing the biennials which will ensure the garden is filled with colour after the spring bulbs have faded.


  • Foxgloves, Wallflowers, English Daisies, Iceland Poppies, Dames Violet are some of the more popular ones.
  • Summer annuals like Zinnia and Cosmos that were planted out last month will be in need of 'tipping out'. This helps to make a bushy, stable plant with plenty of flowers.
  • Of course the  bulb catalogues will  arrive this month and  the temptation within their pages  will prompt lustful lists to be made. Whilst they are a pleasant distraction from the realities that are going on outside it is important to keep in mind  that a garden is most successful when it is planted to respond evenly to the seasons. Too many spring bulbs makes for a very messy late-spring garden whilst the bulb-foliage is allowed to mature.
  • Liquid feeding of summer annuals should  be done regularly over the comiung months, changing the formula to one higher in potassium as the plants start to set bud.



Pots that are watered copiously during the hot weather need feeding on a regular basis. Regular doses of a half strength liquid feed  will keep things looking prosperous.


  • Lilies in pots that were started over the  winter can be moved from their holding spot into the limelight this month.
  • Ditto Hydrangeas which will be starting to cover themselves in bloom,  a little extra slow release food will keep the foliage lush green and promote new flower heads for later in the season.
  • If potted Hostas are looking worse for wear (or if you forgot the snail bait in spring) they can be cut to ground , liquid fed and started off again to look good in autumn.
  • A few of the South American and African lilies make good potted specimens for summer. Crinum, Ismene , Scadoxus, Sprekelia are easy and if it's not too cold Eucharis lilies have a sublime perfume. All have specific watering requirements which should replicate their native climate and having them in pots makes this easier to achieve.
  • Emptying pots of spring annuals and perennials etc. should get under way. Bare in mind that all pots should be re-potted once a year  as their residents quickly exhaust the soil they are in and things go into decline just when they shouldn't - in the heat.
  • Those empty pots will come in handy for spring bulbs.
  • New strains of dwarf  bedding Zinnia from American breeders  have proven to be wonderfully long lasting in pots. While it is too late for this season they are worth remembering for next.



Cutting Garden

January is Lily time  but summer annuals are getting into their stride.


  • Late flowering Chrysanthemums  have either grown through their netting and are standing nice and upright or are starting to show signs of leaning. We like to have a balance of both as the curved stems of the latter add to  a relaxed feeling when arranged.
  • Picking and dead-heading Sweet Peas extends their season remarkably
  • Keep young weed seedlings at bay with a combination of the swoe and vinegar
  • If stressed, Peonies can  develop a type of botrytis  which damages their foliage keep well watered and mulched at least until the end of February.
  • Galtonia candicans make beautiful cut flowers for February but can get blown around a bit if grown in an exposed site. Netting or twigs will solve the problem.
  • Depending on when roses most wanted  a light summer pruning can be done eight weeks prior to the required date  to  reliably secure them.
  • All summer annuals , and Dahlias for that matter benefit from a 'tipping out' when about 30cm tall. This double the flowers produced and makes the stems more suitable for bunches and arrangements.
  • Orlaya will be setting quantities off seed now and whilst they tend to germinate as the weather cools it's a good idea to sow seed now so the window is not missed. The seed holds onto the plant and often doesn't release in time.



Have the following at the ready for summer  jobs


  • Propagating mix
  • Cutting hormone
  • Sphagnum moss for pots
  • Snail bait
  • Stakes and Bamboo canes  in various sizes
  • Slow release fertilizer
  • Japanese sharpening stone
  • Three way sharpener for hedger
  • Two stroke oil
  • Engine oil




Lawns are a labour of love at this time of year but if you just have grass then that's good too.


  • If the mower wasn't serviced in spring and dryness has slowed the lawn down now is as good a time as any.
  • A good lawn  exists because of one inescapable truth -  the more you mow the more you need to water and fertilize so ( depending on where you stand of course)sprinklers and fertiliser need to be at the ready.




  • Compost heaps should be kept moist during hot weather and in cooler areas a bit of solarizing doesn't hurt just to speed things up before autumn.
  • Keeping a balance of fine and coarse ingredients as it is added is important to the effectiveness of the heap.



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