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January Jobs for the Garden

by Aislinn Dunne | Jan 02, 2014
January jobs in the gardenThe coldest month is a time for protecting your garden from being ravaged by from attacks by the winds, freezing rains and cold. It’s a month for curling up and staying warm but there’s work to be done. It’s January – time to prepare your garden for Spring and repair any winter damage. Beware the pitfalls of the January gardener.


They don’t call January the coldest month for nothing. The cold, rain and wind can wreak havoc on the little ecosystem that is your garden. Take steps now and you’ll be thankful later.
  • Feed the Birds: Little birds need enormous amounts of energy at this time of year, just to survive the bitterly cold nights. Help them survive the cold spell by leaving out plenty of high fat foods like lard balls and oily seeds like black sunflower seeds and nyger seeds. Finding water sources can be difficult when it’s freezing out so fill your bird baths and remove any ice in the mornings.
  • Heel-in Bare Roots: Newly-arrived bare root trees and shrubs can be ‘heeled-in’ in a pot of compost now until you’re ready to plant them later. The ground will be easier to dig in a few weeks. 
  • Mulch Tender Plants: Put plenty of mulch around tender shrubs to keep their roots from freezing and make sure potted contains are well wrapped in bubble wrap of fleece or move them to a sheltered spot or into a shed.
  • Clear Your Greenhouse: There’s never a good time for this but January is a good month to tackle your greenhouse and get it organised and cleaned out before the Spring.
  • Fork Beds and Borders: Start forking over beds and borders now and you’ll have a much smaller job on your hands come March. This can be a thankless job in cold weather and a little and often approach works well. 
  • Warm Vegetable Patches: You could start warming up the soil of next year’s vegetable patch now and give your growing season a head start, put a sheet of clear polythene over the ground and the sun will start to warm the soil gradually and the rain is kept off to stop the ground getting sodden.



The amount of maintenance needed in the garden in January can be daunting but all the little jobs need doing and your Mother wasn’t wrong when she told you ‘a stitch in time saves nine’!
  • If pots have frozen then it’s too late to wrap them in bubble wrap. Move them to a sheltered spot instead and hope for the best.
  • Keep paths free of fallen leaves and moss but go easy on the rock salt if you’re using it to clear ice from paths. It can burn leaves and damage roots if too much of it is used. 
  • January is a good time to prune pear and apple trees in particular. If the branches of any of your trees have been damaged by winds cut them right back. Damaged branches can be tied and in some cases they will repair themselves but it’s more likely to end in a nasty fungal infection and further damage to the tree so avoid this if you can. 
  • Check that stored crops, roots and tubers aren’t showing any signs of rot and remove any that are straight away.
  • Recycle your Christmas tree. Almost every local authority has a free Christmas tree recycling service in your local area. Some charities now offer the same service for a small fee. The trees are mulched and the mulch is reused. There are no excuses not to use these services. Whatever you do, don’t dump your tree or send it to landfill, it’s a terrible waste, you’d be better off with an artificial one. If you have the space you could consider leaving your tree in a quiet and shady corner of your garden, to decompose naturally over time. This will attract lots of helpful insects and bugs that will benefit your garden. Find out where your local Christmas Tree recycling point here or follow #IrishTreecycle on twitter


While there isn’t as much to do in the garden in January compared to other months of the year, there is plenty that you shouldn’t be doing. Avoid these mistakes if you can -
  • Don’t walk on the grass! Frosty grass is a beautiful sight to behold but keep off it if you don’t want to create ugly black footprints as you bruise the grass. Walking on wet grass can be just as damaging and lead to soil compaction so spread your wait across a plank if you must walk on sodden ground. 
  • Don’t force rhubarb – sure you can, but it’s a bit too early. Wait another few weeks and let the plants build up some strength first – you’ll be glad you did. 
  • Don’t overwater houseplants – it’s winter, they don’t need as much and freezing cold water can shock delicate root systems. Let water sit for a few hours to reach room temperature before you water your plants. 
  • Don’t trust a pigeon – He’s after your greens. Pigeons are OBSESSED with winter greens and brassicas so check your netting is secure if you don’t want them gobbled up.

Teresa’s Bio

Currently I am the Horticulturist in Countrylife Castlecomer Co. Kilkenny. I completed my certificate in Horticulture at Kildalton College, Piltown, Co Kilkenny and then began a busy career in horticulture working in several garden centres – even one as far away Bondi Junction, Sydney! During my time studying at Kildalton my keen interest and love of trees, plants and anything green was a guarantee to me that horticulture was the right career path for me. I became passionate about garden design and have been involved in the design and landscaping of many garden projects. The beauty of horticulture to me is that I never stop learning – gardening practices, plants, trees and shrubs are evolving and changing all the time – fertilizing the growth of my garden passion! If you have a horticulture related question please feel free to ask.