Soggy, soggy, soggy, what a frustrating few weeks to start our new year. The ground has been so difficult to get on, even the lawn has squelched like a laden sponge and whilst there hasn’t been a huge amount to plant, the ground has been almost unworkable. I did however manage to get my bare root hedging planted (though not the raspberries which I will set out next week) and the pinch of lettuce I sowed on the windowsill is almost fit for pricking out. In the days ahead I am hoping to set out a few onion sets and shallots. There is plenty of time, but I had high hopes of getting some of them out in January. If the weather continues to tease, I am going to be doing some pruning and grubbing up. I have ivy growing invasively and blackberry seedlings everywhere. Courtesy of the blackbird I suspect, delivering seed around the place to germinate and colonise in the middle of established shrubs. They need culling now or they will run riot in the spring.
I am also going to get my apple tree pruned this month. It wants doing whilst the trees are dormant, and pruning can be brutal if necessary. Prune to a manageable open shape, knocking out dead, diseased, crossing or crowded growth. Mine hasn’t been done for a couple of years, so there is some work to do. Soft fruit can be tidied up too at this time and if you have late fruiting raspberries a good trim to remove old canes will encourage new growth for this autumns production. You have also a bit of time to relocate established plants, if you have the energy. We are deceived by the label describing our purchases as ‘small’ and all too regularly plants defy the information and do extraordinary things. Reshaping the garden to make things fit is good practice. As you toil to wrestle plants from the ground, celebrate the bounteous generosity of the triffid. If the outdoors isn’t calling then get prepared for the season approaches quickly. Consider your planting plans for the spring and get seed organised, select bulbs, get your compost bought and put under cover and select seed potatoes setting them in a cool but frost free place to start them chitting.
And finally, if you have any rhubarb in the ground, drop a large pot, bucket or even redundant water butt or compost bin over the crown to force some early growth.