A new year for the garden

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It is the start of a new year and the start of the gardening season.

It is time to plan your planting and how you want your garden to look over the coming months, stock up on seeds and service any essential equipment such as lawn mowers and tools.

It is also a time for New Year’s resolutions and here are 12 – one a month – that will make your garden super diverse and environmentally friendly:

  • Use less plastic
  • Plant a tree
  • Start sowing seeds
  • Plant something for fun
  • Grow more vegetables
  • Go green and have a go at organic growing
  • Learn to relax and enjoy your garden
  • Be more water aware
  • Compost more of your garden waste
  • Welcome wildlife
  • Bring the outside in with houseplants
  • Look after your tools

First on the list is using less plastic, something we are all trying to do in our daily lives so it makes sense that we try to make our gardens as plastic free as possible.

The biggest ‘bad boy’ in any gardener’s life is the plastic pot. It’s estimated that 500 million plant pots and seed trays are sold every year and the majority are sent to landfill or are incinerated.

But there are non-plastic alternatives such as biodegradable pots made using materials like coir, wood chips, bamboo and rice husks.

A growing number of garden centres and nurseries use biodegradable pots, but it’s worth checking out their sustainability policies.

You can also make your own pots using newspaper or toilet roll tubes.

And now is a good time to make your own supplies of biodegradable pots so you have stock for the planting season in a couple of months.

If you’ve got a supply of old newspapers to hand, simply roll a 15cm-wide strip of newspaper tightly around a glass tumbler, leaving 5cm beyond the bottom of the glass.

Fold the excess paper across the bottom, then press the glass down to flatten the pot’s base.

There is no need to fix your paper pot with tape, just slide it off the glass.

When ready to plant, just fill with compost.

Taking good care of existing plastic is a good way to ensure you don’t have to keep buying it – so reuse any plant pots you have again and again for new seedlings, cuttings and plants.

If you look after your propagator trays and lids, repairing them if they crack, they will last for several seasons.

You can also reuse compost bags to store compost or turn leaves into leaf mould.

The added bonus of recycling or reusing items in the garden is that it also reduces cost – as does growing from seed rather than buying established plants.

Even in winter, you can grow something from seed, you just need a seed tray and a window ledge, or small cold frame or greenhouse – whatever space and budgets allow.

For anyone growing their own vegetables, January is great for sowing onions.

If you sow onions then, it saves the expense of buying onion sets – small bulbs – later, and you can have a much larger crop of onions in the summer.

Onions seeds do not have a long shelf-life, so it’s best to buy new seeds each year.

Seeds will germinate between 16C and 21C, one or two weeks after sowing.

When large enough to handle, transplant to individual small pots and keep in a bright, frost-free place until April when they can be planted outside.

Varieties to try include: Setton – high yield, yellow skinned and good storage potential; Red Baron – a late maturing red onion with globe shaped bulbs and strong taste; and Hybound – an early variety with bronze-brown skins which is excellent for long-term storage.

January is often the coldest month in the garden but there are still some things you can be doing to keep busy.

As the Royal Horticultural Society says, January might be the middle of winter but, as the days lengthen, the garden starts to grow.

It is a great time to plan for the coming gardening year and to order seeds and plants.

Enjoy the fresh air on dry sunny days, and check your winter protection, stakes, ties and supports are still working after any severe weather.

Also, put out food for birds and leave some garden areas uncut, a little longer, to provide shelter for wildlife in your garden.

Top three jobs this month: clean pots and greenhouses ready for spring, dig over empty or unused plots, and prune apple and pear trees.