January Checklist


Most gardeners take time off in January to enjoy their gardens and spend time with family and friends.

There is nothing urgent to do, except for small maintenance jobs like regular watering, light pruning, deadheading of spent flowers and tying in unruly growth. If you are planning to go away on holiday in January then do the following tasks before closing the garden gate behind you – it will make coming home again something to look forward to.

  • Mow the lawn a day before you leave and give it a deep soaking. It is not going to stop growing while you are gone and on your return you will have to cut it in stages over the first few days or weeks of January, removing only the top bits at first, then lowering the blades a little for a second cut and then down to the normally recommended height a few days later.
  • Weed, water deeply and then mulch all the beds. Remove most half-open and open flowers to encourage the production of new blooms that you can enjoy when you return.
  • Trim all hedges neatly – overgrown plants are a sign to unwanted ‘visitors’ that the householder is absent.
  • Pick up fallen fruit and harvest what’s ripe and ready to cook, can, freeze or give away. Invite your neighbours to help themselves from your kitchen garden while you are away.
  • Herbs in January will be full and lush now, with lots of material to harvest. Freezing the herbs gives fresher-tasting results than drying. Pick your favourite herbs, remove any tough stems and place them, either one at a time or in combinations you enjoy, in an electric blender. Almost cover with water, blend until they are finely chopped and pour the mix into ice cube trays and freeze. Label them if you have used different combinations.
  • If you can, move your container plants to a shady spot so that they will take longer to dry out (which will make life easier for the kind person who has agreed to water them for you from time-to-time). Dig water retention granules into the soil of every pot and mulch with stones or compost – this good gardening practice can save precious plants in your absence.
  • For indoor plants, place a piece of capillary matting or an old rug in the bath and soak it with water. Stand all your pots on the mat, after watering them well, and make sure the bathroom curtains are left open to let light in. The wet material in the bath should keep the atmosphere humid, which should keep the plants happy.
  • Try this for the larger indoor plants and patio plants: cut the bases off plastic bottles, pierce small holes in their lids or necks (or remove the lids altogether and plug the neck with a wad of cotton wool) and push the bottles, top first, into the soil. Fill them up with water and it will seep through the punctured stopper or cotton wool plug and keep the soil moist.
  • If you have an automatic irrigation system, check that it is in perfect working order and set correctly.
  • Before leaving, make sure that all your garden tools and the wheelbarrow are safely locked away.
  • The best way to spend your energy now, no matter where you live in our large and beautiful country, is to create your own personal ‘Dream Board’ to help you whip your garden into shape.
  • Do This
  • Drive around the neighbourhood and take pictures of plants that are growing successfully in other gardens.
  • Take a leisurely stroll through your local garden centres and nurseries and compile a shopping list of the plants you fall in love with. Photograph them too. Local nurseries should generally only stock plants that will grow in your area – if they don’t they will lose money.
  • Page through all your old gardening magazines for ideas and pick the look you want to achieve. Cut the pictures out.
  • Collect paint and material swatches in the colours and designs that you like.

Now do This
Take a large poster board and paste all your ideas, lists and pictures on it. Stick it on your kitchen or bedroom wall and add to it every day. Inspired by your Dream Board, and with positive thinking and good planning, you will be able to realise your dream garden, regardless of the curve balls that life, your budget and nature might decide to dish out.