Even through the dark days of January, there’s still plenty to do in the garden. I spent a chilly afternoon re-cutting lawn edges that had spread onto the surrounding paths. It has a similar effect to trimming the edges in the growing season; the garden instantly looks neater. You need a sharp half moon, an old spade with a sharp blade or a new spade held at and angle of about 80 degrees using shallow cuts so they are not curved. Slice away turf using a continuous cutting motion, leaving enough of a gap between the lawn and path so there is room to slide the edging shears and no wider or your lawn will rapidly disappear!
If you have to cut a straight edge along a border a scaffolding plank or similar is the perfect template, providing you stand on it to stop it from moving. Alternatively, use a garden line, standing on the line to make sure that it doesn’t move. Turf that is removed can be stacked and covered with a sheet of polythene, it will rot down into lovely loam that can be used as potting compost. Anyone who grows peaches, almonds, apricots or nectarines outdoors should remember to protect them from peach leaf curl with a plastic or glass cover, from January to mid May. Wall grown plants should have the top and front covered, the cover should not touch the plant and there should be a gap at the base and sides of the cover for ventilation and so insects can enter to add to the effectiveness of hand pollination. Trees can be covered with a wigwam of canes covered in plastic and held together with clothes pegs. This protects them from fungal spores which form red pustules, distorting the leaves which eventually fall and even though they are replaced the tree is gradually weakened. Any trees that suffer can be sprayed with liquid seaweed and fed with general fertiliser when growth starts and kept well watered too. Spraying with copper fungicide as the buds begin to swell in late January or early February and again fourteen days later but before the flowers open is beneficial, as is a spray again at leaf fall.
There’s an old apple tree in my garden which needs renovating. This is a job that can be done anytime between November and February, but not during frost or cold winds and is done in stages over four years, removing a quarter of the growth each time to stop the tree from producing masses of unfruitful growth. Remove dead, diseased or damaged growth, stand back and check the overall shape then remove any crossing or badly placed branches growing into the ‘crown’ cutting back to a well placed horizontally growing side branch. Remove old branches that are too close together too, in smaller sections if necessary to avoid tearing the bark. In spring, the tree will need mulching and feeding to encourage re-growth.