Eco Garden January

Birds in the winter

Eco Garden January

In January, your garden may well need protecting from frosts, gale-force winds and heavy rain. Check stakes, ties, fleeces and other supports for damage and consider moving plants to sunnier positions to maximize light. Don't forget to keep feeding the birds; food is scarce for them over winter and don’t be fooled if they look fat, that’s because they fluff up their feathers to keep warm.

Things to do…

Flowers – Now is the perfect time to sow some seeds in a heated greenhouse or propagator to provide early plants these could be: Begonia, Lobelia, Salvia and Pelargonium

Start cutting back grasses and other perennials left for winter interest.

Root cuttings can be taken now. Papaver (perennial poppies), Verbascum (mullein), Acanthus and Phlox are suitable examples.

In mild areas, and during dry spells, you can still lift and divide herbaceous perennials. This will increase stocks, and revive tired or poorly flowering clumps.

Stock up on store cupboard items such as string, stakes and canes for use later in the year.

Greenhouse - Even in mild areas, tender plants that cannot be left outside with protection should really be taken into the greenhouse or conservatory by the beginning of this month. In cold areas, you are best moving things inside much earlier, in the autumn.

Remove any snow from greenhouse and conservatory roofs, to prevent damage to the glass and frames, this will also allow good light penetration.

Clear leaves and twigs from guttering on greenhouses and sheds.

Trees and shrubs - Packing the branches of tender deciduous trees and shrubs with straw or bracken, and securing this with fleece and ties, will protect them from frost as this will inevitable be coming if it has not done so already.

Lawns - If the weather is mild you can lay a new turf or repair hollows and bumps in an existing lawn, it’s even a good time to repair and re-shape lawn edges if necessary.

Mole activity will increase in January and February due to mating and nest (fortress) building. Remove the largest hills and re-firm before overseeding in spring.

Ponds - Monitor the water level of your pond, as hard frosts can cause defects in the liner and in concrete structures. If the water level drops considerably, then it may have developed a leak. Be sure to keep it topped up until repairs can be carried out in the spring.

Structures - Put lagging around outdoor taps to prevent freezing and to enable use throughout the winter.

Recycling - Recycle your Christmas tree by shredding it for mulch for the garden.

Birds and Wildlife - Gardens can prove a real life-saver for birds at this time of year, especially when it is frosty or snowy. Holly and other berries are a great source of food for birds.  Birds will become bolder, venturing into gardens in search of scattered scraps and well-stocked feeders and bird tables so keep putting out food and water for hungry birds.

Fallen apples can still be a good food source, which you can supplement with sliced fruit from the kitchen.

Take care not to disturb creatures hibernating in the corner of a shed, or under vegetation. Leaves, dried stems and the seed heads of flowers provide shelter for over-wintering lacewings, ladybirds and other insects. A pile of fallen branches is likely to have become home to a rich variety of wildlife, even a hedgehog. Instead of having a bonfire, rake rotting branches, grass clippings and fallen leaves into heaps and leave them to rot down naturally.

Put out log and twig piles made from old prunings and felled trees. These can provide valuable shelter for wildlife, and can be made into attractive features by planting up with ferns, primroses, or other suitable plants.

Piles of slabs or rockery stones will act as a suitable wildlife habitat, as will old bales of straw, hay or prunings.

Corrugated iron or plastic laid on the soil can provide ‘tunnel’ hiding places for small reptiles and mammals looking for shelter and warmth.

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