Welcome to a new gardening year, new plans for the garden and new opportunities.
First off, re-cycle your Christmas tree at Cork County Council Civic Amenity sites. You will find full details of their location together with opening hours on the Cork County Council website. www.corkcoco.ie/civicamenitysites. Do also consider using your Christmas tree as a support for Sweet Pea, Thunbergia or Peas.
Ventilate the greenhouse on fine days but close it up again before temperatures drop in the afternoon. Protect vulnerable plants on very cold frosty days with frost protection fleece. If snow does arrive, remove it immediately from the greenhouse to prevent exclusion of light. Ensure heaters are working — a thermostatically controlled heater is a worthwhile purchase. Regularly pick over plants for dead and diseased leaves and remove on a regular basis to maximize good health and minimize spread of disease.
Clean the greenhouse thoroughly, clearing all old debris and ensuring all nooks, crannies and corners are thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed. Disinfect used pots, trays, containers, using a citrox-based disinfectant once all the cleaning has been done.
Water all pot plants carefully during the month of January. Use luke warm water and water from the base. Don’t allow any plant to sit more than 30 minutes in water.
At the end of the 30-minute period any excessive water remaining should be discarded.
Indoor forced bulbs that have finished flowering after their Christmas display such as Hyacinths or Narcissi maybe moved outdoors to a sheltered spot. Ensure the longevity of Poinsettias by keeping in a bright, warm draught-free place. If you have Hyacinths or Narcissi still to flower these are best kept in a cool, bright room. Keeping these cool and bright will result in more long lasting blooms and will keep them sturdy.
When weather and soil conditions permit continue with planting of new fruit trees and bushes, choosing sunny, well-sheltered positions.
Blackcurrants are grown mainly for use in pies and puddings and are excellent for jam and jelly making. They are very easy to grow. A blackcurrant will eventually reach a height of 5 feet (150cm) with a similar spread. Expect a blackcurrant to produce 10-15lbs of fruit (4.5-6.8kg). Plant in an organic rich soil with shelter from the wind. Full sun is preferable but they will tolerate light shade. Prune blackcurrants between November and March. Commence pruning two years after planting, cutting out weak branches.
From three to four years onwards remove some old wood each year, cutting out about 25 to 33 per cent of the fruited branches.
In spring, make sure the bushes have not been lifted by frost — tread down and firm securely in place if this has happened. Keep weeds under control. Hoe with great care —keep the blade near the surface to avoid damaging the shallow rooting system. Mulching in April is strongly recommended to suppress weeds and feed the bushes. Spread some Growmore around the bushes in March prior to mulching.
Gooseberries are easy to grow and can have a certain level of forgiveness if not pruned for a few years! (Even though I won’t be advocating their neglect). Pruning in winter and summer is necessary to give an abundant crop, which can be easily accessed for picking as well as keeping growth and fruit off the ground. Plant gooseberries when soil and weather conditions permit. Space at 5 feet (1.5m) apart. Be careful in the spring against Gooseberry Sawfly; these pale green, caterpillar like larvae cause rapid and severe defoliation of plants, often reducing the bush to bare stems prior to harvest time. Damage commences in mid-late spring and can continue until summer as they can produce three generations of the pest a year. Birds can damage the developing buds in winter while others are attracted to the ripening fruit in summer.
Apples and Pears
Continue winter pruning of apples and pears, treating canker infected branches with an appropriate product such as Medo.
Early Sowings of Vegetables
• Sow early sowings of broad beans. Protect with a cold greenhouse, cold frame or cloches.
• Sow early crops of lettuce, cabbages, cauliflowers, onions and spinach. Order seed potatoes and put sprouting/chitting for early crops in mild areas or under protection.
Protect emerging bulbs such as Tulips, Crocus and Narcissi against slug and snail damage, treating accordingly if they are active. Watch too for vermin attacking or stealing bulbous plants or emerging seedlings. Look out for early Snowdrops!
Take note of winter flowering shrubs such as Hamamellis (witch hazel), Daphne bholua Jacqueline Postil, winter flowering heathers, Skimmias, early Camellias, Mahonias, Garrya elliptica, Cornus (dogwoods) for colourful and dramatic winter colour from their dramatic gold and red winter bark colours.
Take time to visit some gardens with plants of winter interest. A happy and successful New Year to everyone!