January top-tips

Well if you are not water-logged, or partially water-logged...you are doing very well!

Clay soils will always drain slower than chalky and sandy soils. Think of pouring water into a barrel of lentils. It will take a lot longer to get through than a barrel of marbles or tennis balls.

And so it is with soil; clay particles are very small so hold in the water ( and the nutrients for that matter) much better than chalky soils ( marbles ) or sandy soils ( tennis balls ). No offence Andy Murray.

That is why we dig in manure and compost at this time of year. It helps the STRUCTURE of the soil by encouraging larger particles to bind together and smaller ones to be broken up by the organic activity of worms and microcosms.

Have you noticed the dark almost purple colours of most trees at this time of year? I am always quite struck by the colours, especially in the cold, bluish light of evening. And it is at this time of year I wonder....will spring ever come round again? What happened to the glorious greens of last year?

So signs of life are a wonder; the blue-tits, starlings and Robins at my bird-feeder. The hippy-hair flowers emerging from Witchazels and the winter-flowering scented Viburnums ( bodnantense, fragrans, tinus), the crocus beginning to show and the out-of-place looking bright yellow Jasmine nudiflorum. The soon-to-flower Sarcococcas (winter box) are a treat for those who want to fill a room with an intense, delicate fragrance.

And as much of nature is evidently dormant - now is the time to get your bare -root plants in and to do your pruning. More on that next month.

There are however, no end of chores to keep a gardener busy; cleaning out the greenhouse ( use a solution of Jeyes fluid to get rid of moss and mold ), sorting out labels, the sticks and supports and the job no-one ever gets round to but one I always find satisfying...cleaning the tools.

What is it about men and tools? All lined up and shiny and hanging evenly on hooks......do the ladies have an equivalent activity that makes you feel you can look the world in the eye?!!!