Snow and ice, with outdoor jobs at a standstill; all hands busy in the potting shed, preparing seed boxes and composts, oiling and sharpening tools. Or, if a mild spell occurs, work on paths, fences, pergolas, and screens. Beware of the temptation to move plants: roots dislike disturbance when frosts are about, and January weather is treacherous.
Turn over vacant soil.
Bastard trench vegetable plots if weather permits, and if this has not been done already.
Ridge heavy soil: it will break up easily after frost.
Use lime, i.e., chalk (on light soils) or builder’s lime (on heavy soils).
Use soil fumigants and winter washes.
Spread manure during frosts.
Apart from the usual seeds, make a note to tryout one or two new or unusual varieties-Golden Wonder potato for its flavour, alpine strawberries, or the Paramount sugar pea. A practical novelty or two will give additional interest to your garden.
Thoroughly prepare food plots by single or double digging, ridging, and liming. Annual dressings of lime are better than very heavy dressings once in three years.
Set seed potatoes to sprout, rose end up in shallow trays, in a light, frost-proof place.
Plan the plot for sowing; order seeds. Order sufficient seeds for the season, but sow only a part at a time, so that crops are raised in succession.
If a warm sheltered plot is available, the first sowing of the year-a row of broad beans-can be made.
Prune hardy orchard trees: apples, pears, plums, damsons, but not peaches, cherries or apricots.
Cut back trees that are to be grafted.Heel grafting scions into the ground where they will lie dormant.
Use winter washes.
Avoid planting this month.
Loosen the soil surface on vacant flowerbeds, so that plenty of air penetrates the top spit.
When mild spells occur, loosen the soil between bulbs that are showing.
Protect autumn sown annuals with mats, newspapers, etc.
Wheel manure to beds that are intended for spring sowing of annuals.
Dust powdered lime between herbaceous plants, if no renovation of the borders has taken place recently.
General Maintenance Make and repair paths.
Keep evergreens free from snow as far as possible.
Use creosote or white lead paint on all garden woodwork except oak, teak and red cedar: these woods need no preservative.
If cement is used in repair work, keep it well covered during frosty weather, until it is quite dry, otherwise it will crack badly.
Repair. all non-living edges; use stone or tiles to separate grass from gravel, but not wood, or insect pests will be encouraged.
Take stock of tools, fertilizers and insecticides.
These can usefully be ordered for the season now, to save time when the rush of outdoor work begins.
Sort over stakes and plant labels.
Order stocks of these and also of tying material.
Wash all pots, and also the pieces of crock to be used for drainage. A disinfectant bath for these will prevent many losses among seedlings.
Prepare and paint, if necessary, tubs, flower-boxes and plant vases.
In mild spells climbers, from pots, can be planted: prepare good soil beds for these, remembering that they have to make a great deal of growth if they are to be really effective.
Press back the soil round all growing plants if it has been loosened by frost; this will prevent losses in all parts of the garden.
Make up the first hotbed of the year with leaves and manure; this will create enough heat to raise many half-hardy vegetables and flowers.
Shorthorn carrots and early cauliflowers are useful first crops for the hotbed.
Cold frames and cold greenhouses should be ventilated on mild days, the lights and windows being closed again an hour before sundown. This conserves solar heat.
Set cloches in position over rhubarb and sea-kale in the open.
Use rows of continuous cloches over early lettuces and early peas sown in the open garden. Such sowings should only be made now on warm borders.
Sow onions in boxes in the frame preferably in boxes raised a little over a hotbed.
Leeks and parsley can also be sown in a frame if plenty of room is available.
Radishes and mustard and cress can be forced when opportunity permits; a hotbed will produce good radishes in a few weeks.
Sweet peas can be sown now in deep boxes, covered with a sheet of glass, and stood under a south wall if no frame is vacant. Raise the glass 1/2 in. when the first sign of the seedlings is shown