Garden jobs for January and February

General garden maintenance

  • A couple of things to remember
    • Walking on lawns when they are frosted or wet will damage the grass. If you need to access beds and borders to work, lay planks to walk on.
    • Frosts improve the structure of previously dug soil, but take care not to walk on or work the soil when it is waterlogged - you will do more damage than good.On the subject of lawns, if yours is looking tired and in need of a boost, use a winter lawn product.
  • Weeds start growing before almost anything else - knock them out as soon as you spot them, as it’s much easier to get rid of them before they have a chance to establish. Perennial weeds should be dug out with as much of their roots as possible, or treated with a systemic weed killer as soon new leaves appear.
  • Check protective fleeces and wrappings around plants and pots; ensure stakes, fences and gutters are secure, and that the garden is tidy, with nothing lying around which could be picked up by strong winds and cause damage.
  • Cut back the old foliage from ornamental grasses before growth begins, clipping them to within a few centimetres of the ground, but leaving a protective ‘mound’ at the core if it is a large specimen.
  • If snow is forecast, tie up Cordylines, conifers and other plants which may be damaged by the weight of snow.
  • Protect the developing core of tree ferns with old fronds or straw.
  • Remove old leaves from Hellebores to make the new blooms more visible as they emerge.
  • Spread organic matter, well-rotted manure or organic compost, as a surface layer over beds. If you lay it on top as a mulch, the rain and worms will gradually pull the nutrients down into the soil.
  • Clear out the shed or storage cupboard, checking over tools and equipment to make sure they are all clean and in working order. Get rid of any chemicals and fertilisers which have been lying around for a long time. These materials should be taken to your local authority waste site for safe disposal.
  • Deadhead winter bedding plants such as cyclamen and pansies, remove any diseased leaves and remember to water them; lack of watering can cause mildew.

Container gardening

  • Wash empty pots by scrubbing them with hot water and a mild detergent. Rinse them well afterwards.
  • Wrap non-frostproof pots in bubble wrap or hessian to help prevent cracking. Group pots together in a sheltered south facing spot.
  • Protect tender plants either by bringing them into the greenhouse or conservatory when a cold snap is forecast, or by wrapping them in horticultural fleece.
  • Plant up a few pots with spring bulbs and bedding to brighten the view from indoors.
  • When pots of bulbs have finished flowering, deadhead, feed with a foliar feed and plant them out in the garden to enjoy again next year and free up the pot for summer displays.
  • Remember to water planted containers, it’s easy to forget in cold weather.


  • Finish pruning deciduous trees, if needed, to keep them in shape. Be prepared to seal the wood with an appropriate sealant.
  • Give Wisteria its winter prune by cutting back the current season’s growth to within two or three buds of the older wood. See our notes on Wisteria Pruning.
  • Finish pruning apple and pear trees, gooseberries, red and blackcurrants. Prune autumn fruiting raspberries, cutting each cane right down to the ground.
  • Cut back Group 3 Clematis – the late flowering ones which flower on the current year’s growth e.g. Etoile Violette, Jackmanii, Gravetye Beauty – to the lowest pair of strong buds, at about knee height, 30cm above the ground.
  • Prune summer flowering deciduous shrubs such as Buddleja, Caryopteris, hardy fuchsias, Santolina and others. These can generally be pruned very hard, almost to the ground leaving a few buds or shoots on each stem. If you want to increase the size of the shrubs, leave a few stems on and prune these lightly.
  • Hydrangea paniculata can be pruned hard now. Other types of Hydrangea, including common mopheads (Hydrangea macrophylla) should only be pruned lightly in spring to avoid removing the new flower buds.
  • Prune roses to encourage healthy new flowering stems. Cut back to just above a bud and remove any dead or crossing branches.

When you have finished pruning, give plants a feed with an organic fertiliser and/or mulch with good organic compost or manure.


  • If you missed planting bulbs in the autumn, or find gaps which could do with some colour, pop in a few pots of spring bulbs. Dwarf Iris, snowdrops and crocus will flower first, then narcissi , followed by tulips and alliums. Get them in the ground while they’re small and they will provide months of colour.
  • If your garden looks a bit bare and uninteresting, plant a winter flowering shrub such as Hamamelis, Daphne, Sarcococca or Camellia.
  • Continue planting deciduous trees and shrubs, provided the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged.
  • Introduce evergreen shrubs if your winter garden is lacking structure, or bright coloured winter stems, such as Cornus and Salix.

Seed sowing

  • Sweet Pea seeds can be sown indoors in a propagator on a sunny windowsill, and planted out later on. Those sown in autumn can be potted on and kept on a windowsill in a cold frame or greenhouse.
  • If the weather improves and the soil gets warm, you can start to sow broad beans, peas, cabbage, beetroot and spinach under cloches.

Pests and diseases

  • Keep an eye out for the first signs of herbaceous growth and protect the new leaves from slug attack. An early application of slug pellets will reduce the population later in the year.


  • It’s important to keep bird feeders topped up with a variety of food to support our feathered friends in cold weather. Always supply fresh water for them too.


    If it’s too cold to go out, spend time planning that new border, or do some research on your favourite plants. There’s always something new to learn. Enjoy the lengthening days - hopefully we’ll have some bright days in the month ahead.