Soil is a bit easier to work with when it’s damp and the weeds that will be invariably prolific will also be shallow rooted and therefore easier to remove. The wind, rain and frost will damage the top layer of soil and it will lose nutrients and structure and start to erode. Therefore, January is also a good time (if you’re so inclined and industrious) to add garden compost, rotted manure, and other green waste and maybe add seaweed solution and fish emulsion (which is a mild fertilizer) to strengthen plant roots. Seaweed is a soil conditioner and root tonic which helps to improve the balance of soil bacteria, support root growth and strengthen plant stems. Also, cover areas of the veg patch and/or flower beds with old rugs or carpet as this will help maintain a steady level of moisture in the beds, reduce the chances of the soil becoming compacted during the winter months and ultimately keep the soil warmer for when seeds and plants can be sown outside. Admittedly, it doesn’t look particularly attractive but as you’re unlikely to be lounging in the garden much, and it’s dark late and early in the day, what you can’t see can’t offend you!
Check out: Soil Association: Winter
Other jobs that can be attacked if you’re really bored…
Protect terracotta pots from cracking in freezing weather by bringing them indoors or wrapping in bubble polythene. Move plants in pots to a sheltered spot if conditions turn very cold, as their roots are more exposed to the elements. Plant fragrant winter shrubs in pots and place near to the house or paths, such as chimonanthus, sarcococca and Daphne odora.
LEAVES – conflicting advice!
Plant bare-root roses and other deciduous shrubs, plus ornamental trees; hang bird feeders near roses to attract hungry birds that will also pick off any overwintering pests. Prune climbing roses between now and February.
FRUIT and NUT HEDGES
If you have space, plant fruit and nut hedges like hawthorn, blackthorn and hazel as these provide fruit and nuts through the winter and can support wildlife.
Pile straw or bracken around the base of tender shrubs and climbers to protect them from falling temperatures. Hard prune overgrown shrubs and hedges while they're dormant.
Check stored bulbs and corms regularly for any signs of rot. Summer-flowering bulbs and tubers that are being stored over winter should be checked for any signs of mould or rot, and those that might be affected should be removed to prevent it spreading. Any forced bulbs can be brought into a warm room to encourage flowering. January is the last chance to plant tulip bulbs provided that the ground is not frozen.