It may be cold outside but getting out into the garden is great way to be active after being holed up indoors over Christmas. There's also the first flowers of the year to enjoy, many of which are scented.
Topping up gravel or bark paths is one of those jobs that gets neglected at busier times of year and is good to do in cold weather as lifting and raking will warm you up. Remove any weeds beforehand and replace edging boards if necessary.
The joy of weeding at this time of year is that the ground stays clear and you feel like you’re getting somewhere. It’s best to dig out the weeds rather than hoe them, as the damp soil means that weeds that are hoed could resprout.
In severe weather, the RSPB advises putting out high-energy (high fat) food for birds twice daily, in the morning and early afternoon, to keep up with demand. Don’t overfill feeders if birds aren’t using them, as stale food can cause problems.
The early bird catches the worm, and the early shopper catches the . Look out for 'potato days' at local garden centres or gardens; these usually offer a great choice of potatoes to buy, plus expert advice.
Choose potatoes without long shoots or any signs of mould. When you get them home, tip them out of the bag into a seed tray or an old egg box and leave them in a cool, light place until you plant them, otherwise known as chitting potatoes. This will discourage the sprouts from growing too long.
Give the fruit trees and bushes in your garden a boost by sprinkling sulphate of potash around the base of the plants and gently hoeing it into the soil surface - be careful not to damage any roots near the surface. It's a good idea to mulch around the plants afterwards to conserve moisture in the soil.
Feeding will provide the potash they need to flower and fruit well. Check the fertiliser packaging and apply at the recommended rate; don't be tempted to add extra as it could damage the plant.
To be sure of getting the varieties you want, make sure you place your seed and plant orders with mail-order companies sooner rather than later. For plants you can reply on to perform well, try our Best Buy varieties of both ornamental plants and veg.
This common fungal disease causes round, brown spots on the leaves and stems of hellebores.
The best advice is remove any infected growth that you find. Ashwood Nurseries, which specialises in hellebores among other plants, recommends cutting off all the foliage, diseased or not, to help stop the new season's growth becoming infected with the fungus. It will also stop the leaves obscuring the flowers are they emerge.
Whether you're planting an ornamental tree or a fruiting one it's a good time of year to do it, as deciduous plants are dormant and you can buy them bare root (ie not in a pot), which is cheaper and better for the environment as it doesn't involve peat or plastic in their production. Many mail-order nurseries specialise in selling trees this way. You can also find roses and hedging sold this way.
When they arrive in the post, plant them as soon as you can. If you have to wait (because the weather is wet, for example), dig the garden and put in the tree, ready to lift for when you can plant it properly.
Dig the planting hole no deeper than the roots, but at least twice their spread. Place the plant in the hole and spread the roots out. Then refill with soil, gently pushing down while you're doing it to eliminate any air pockets.