Avoid walking on lawns when it’s frosty – this can damage the grass and often leads to brown footprint-shaped marks on the lawn that will be visible until late spring.
Regularly inspect your stored tubers and corms of begonias, dahlias, gladioli, cannas etc, for any signs of disease. Remove and destroy any showing signs of rot.
Continue to plant hardy trees, shrubs, climbers, roses and hedges as long as the soil isn’t frozen solid or waterlogged.
Cut back hardy deciduous grasses and perennials left for winter interest – remove the tops and add them to the compost heap.
Remove the old leaves from Christmas roses (helleborus niger) to make new blooms more visible as they emerge. This will also tidy up the plants and help prevent the spread of hellebore leaf spot disease.
Keep control of weeds like groundsel and chickweed which continue seeding even in winter. Remove them after hoeing, or spray them with a contact weed-killer.
Apply a mulch of farmyard manure or composted bark around trees, shrubs, roses and hedges. This will help reduce drying out during the spring and summer, and also suppresses weeds.
Plant lily bulbs into patio pots and borders during mild spells – when you’re planting in pots, ensure there is good drainage and use a good quality potting compost.
Make sure that protective straw or horticultural fleece is still in place on tender plants overwintering outdoors, especially after any windy days.
Plant hippeastrum (amaryllis) bulbs and bring them into active growth with regular watering and feeding. They will reward you with beautiful flowers for later in the winter.
Check all evergreen plants growing in patio pots, as they may require watering – this should only be done during mild weather.
Prune wisterias, cutting back the side shoots shortened by summer pruning to two or three buds – but take care not to remove the flower buds.
If the leaves of cyclamen start to turn yellow, this may be a sign of overwatering. Keep cyclamen in a cool but frost-free position, with plenty of light. Water the plant from below allowing it to drink for up to 30 minutes before pouring away excess water.
If you missed out on planting spring flowering bulbs in the autumn, you can buy potted bulbs now – this is a quick and easy way to brighten up your garden and patio containers.
Plant new bare rooted and container grown roses – plant into well prepared soil adding some blood, fish and bone fertilizer or mycorrhizal fungi to the planting hole.
Prune back winter flowering jasmine (jasmine nudiflorum) after flowering to encourage strong, new growth for next year’s blooms.
Remove any faded flowers from winter flowering pansies to stop them setting seed. This will encourage a flush of new flowers when the weather warms up.
Fruit & vegetables
Finish pruning apples and pears, and make sure you remove all dead and diseased branches. Paint over any large pruning wounds with a pruning compound such as Medo.
Start forcing established clumps of rhubarb – place a large bucket or forcing jar over the crowns to encourage fresh pink shoots to form in the darkness. Don’t force the same crowns again for at least two years.
Dig heavy ground ready for planting vegetables if the soil isn’t frozen or too wet. Annual weeds can be buried in the ground, but the roots of perennial weeds must be removed and destroyed.
Continue planting all fruit trees, bushes and canes during mild weather. Remember to stake and tie all trees, and protect them from rabbits by using a spiral rabbit guard if required.
Sow sweet pea seeds indoors, preferably in a heated propagator to provide plants that will flower earlier in the summer. Use Long Tom pots, root-trainers or tubes, rather than standard pots.
Buy seed potatoes and onion sets. Although it’s too early to plant them outside, you will have the best selection of varieties at this time of year.
Bring potted strawberries inside the greenhouse for forcing. Water plants as necessary and apply a liquid plant food when new leaves and flowers appear.
Sow broad beans in pots and place them in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse – plant varieties such as Aquadulce, Claudia or The Bishop.
Don’t leave houseplants behind curtains on frosty nights – bring the plants into the room to avoid temperature change.
Indoor forced bulbs that were in the house for the Christmas and New Year period, and have now finished flowering, can be put outside in a sheltered position. Remove the old flower heads and allow the bulbs to die back naturally.
Make sure you don’t overwater houseplants – this is the commonest reason for many of them dying. When you do water them, use tepid and not cold water, which can damage the roots of many houseplants.
Wildlife and bird care
Mole activity tends to increase in January and February – traps and deterrents are available if required.
Now’s an ideal time to put up new bird nesting boxes – many different types are available to encourage different species of birds to nest in your garden.
Make sure all bird feeders are regularly cleaned and filled with wild bird food, and give the birds a source of water too, especially during periods of prolonged frosts.
Recycle your Christmas tree – take it to your local recycling centre to be shredded into reusable mulch.
This is an ideal time to get your lawnmower serviced ready for early spring mowing.
Patio slabs and wooden decking can become extremely slippery and dangerous during wet weather. Treating them with a suitable cleaner will remove moss and lichens to reduce this risk, as well as making them look far more attractive.
Check around all newly emerging shoots on plants for signs of slug damage. You can control these pests with safe organic pellets, liquid slug killers, traps and nematodes.