Tracking the weather

If you haven't bothered keeping a weather log in the past, start now says Sally Drury.

Weather Records of temperature, rainfall, snow, winds and hours of sunshine can be helpful as we garden through the years. A quick look back through notes can show trends, help to predict displays and assist in planning work schedules.

Flexibility Whether January turns out to be mild, wet and windy or bleak and snowy, there are jobs to be done. Keep work plans flexible to make best use of warmer, drier days. If snow does arrive, be ready to brush heavy falls from shrubs and hedges before the weight breaks branches. If you have enjoyed a Christmas break, sitting by the fire and eating mince pies, or spent much of the past few weeks in the office working out a summary and preparing plans, you may need to stretch your muscles and build up physical activities gradually.

Where is the interest? In winter, when days are short, the skies cloudy and the garden largely dormant, plants with vibrant-coloured bark can light up the scene while some grasses can add architecture — even more so in frosty conditions. Take time to study each part of the garden to see where improvements can be made for next year.

Trees Inspect mature trees for damage and disease. Make sure that tree shelters (see p36), ties and stakes are providing enough protection and support for young trees. Consider the need to shape young trees.

Lawns After excessive rainfall and long-lying snow, moss and algae can be a problem. Improve drainage by spiking when conditions allow but keep off the grass if it turns icy.

Greenhouses & conservatories Monitor temperatures and humidity levels and ensure that boilers and ventilation systems are working adequately. Keep an eye open for fungal diseases, especially Botrytis, and for pests such as vine weevil in heated greenhouses.

Orders Have another look through seed and nursery catalogues and place any late orders. Consider annual fertiliser, weedkiller and moss-control requirements and place orders for pots and trays as necessary.

Kitchen garden Plan crop rotation for vegetables so that not only can the build-up of pests and diseases be avoided but the best use can be made of manures and fertilisers.

Tools Make sure that the pressure washer is working properly — tools and machinery can end up especially dirty this month.

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