JANUARY - HEAD GARDENER PLANNER & CHECKLIST

Work with the weather.

Queen's Park, Glasgow - image: Flickr/Raymond McRae (CC BY 2.0)
Queen's Park, Glasgow - image: Flickr/Raymond McRae (CC BY 2.0)

New records The start of a year is a good time to begin fresh records for all the garden tasks and observations.

Without a doubt recording the weather can help future planning.

Some records have legal requirements, notably spraying, tree inspections and accidents. There should also be logs of incidents of pests and disease, staff training, tools and equipment servicing and purchase, fuel use, crop rotations and yields, planting, sowing, lawn and pond maintenance. Start new files where necessary and make sure all certificates are up to date - especially insurances and MoTs.

Wish lists There is nothing wrong with spending a little time dreaming.

It breeds creativity. But write down and sketch any sudden inspiration relating to garden design. Keep taking photographs to remind yourself how various areas of the garden look at different times of the year.

The money If your wish list is to stand chance of becoming reality, it may be necessary to make cost savings elsewhere. Consider mowing heights and patterns, the use of line trimmers versus herbicides, the possibility of tank mixes and any opportunities to draw an income from firewood, foliage, plants, produce and events.

Plans Finalise crop rotation for the kitchen garden and place last seed orders. Consider fertiliser needs. Update chemical and pesticide policies. Place orders for pots and growing media required for potting up and propagation. Decide any staff training requirements and research suitable courses and costs.

In the workshop Service any equipment required for spring.

As January can be an extremely dirty month, make sure all tools and machinery are pressure washed.

Office calender All forthcoming events, both at your garden and local venues, should be clearly displayed.

Weather The weather in February can be difficult to predict. Cold, with snow and ice is likely. Heavy rain is also highly probable. High winds may be damaging. While we should gradually see more sunshine, all jobs at this time will be determined by your location and the weather.

Make sure that some work is available indoors when conditions are particularly bad — the sort of conditions that easily ruin lawns and damage soil structure. There may be tasks to do in the greenhouse or the workshop and there is always work to do in the office.

Catch up with paperwork Update garden plans and maps, adding new features and plantings. Records should have been made last year of any events such as waterlogging, areas of excessive shade and those parts of the garden that were quick to dry out. Study these now and plan remedial works such as aeration and drainage, thinning and pruning and the incorporation of organic matter or use of mulch.

Carry out soil tests and record results so that fertiliser programmes can be determined and new planting or seed sowing chosen appropriately.

Finalise schedules for fruit, vegetable and flower production. Make sure that the events calendar is updated and add in any other local events that might provide an opportunity for your own site. Also check your insurance policies, staffing requirements and tool and machinery replacement programmes.

Boost skills & knowledge Check staff training records, especially for aspects such as first-aid cover, and check out the website of your local land-based college so see whether any short courses would fill any skills gaps.

An excellent book on lawn craft has just been published, written by lawn specialist David Hedges-Gower. Modern Lawn Care is a complete guide to providing happy and healthy lawns. It talks about grass, thatch and soil, then looks at the techniques of aeration, mowing, nutrition, scarification, irrigation, turf and returfing plus overseeding. There are chapters on weed control, moss control, common diseases and pests, extreme weather and tackling levelling. Particularly helpful is the month-by-month planner and tips for keeping your own lawn records.

Greenhouse work If you want early outdoor supplies of lettuce, make a small sowing of a cabbage variety in seed boxes. They will need about 13°C to germinate and require hardening off before planting out. Peas and cauliflowers can be treated in a similar way. Begin sowing bedding plants.


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