January feels like the longest and coldest month of the year when the finances are stretched and very little appears to be happening in the garden. It’s a good opportunity to take stock, have a look at what’s been achieved so far, how our gardening challenges have been met as well as the ones still ahead, what worked or didn’t, learn from our mistakes, as well as prepare and plan for the year ahead.
If you’re facing a new or ‘new to you garden’ this is a good time to start!
If you haven’t done it, test your soil! It’s easy by using a basic soil testing kit or a little device that you can push into the ground. Either one will indicate whether your soil is acidic, neutral or alkaline.
It sounds like a science lesson but it’s a simple task that can save you a lot of time and money. Time wasted looking at plants that just won’t suit your garden unless you wish to plant them in containers, or money wasted by spending on plants that are destined to die because they can’t thrive in your particular garden soil. We all move plants around that aren’t doing well just to give them a second chance, but if the reason that they’re struggling in the first place is the wrong soil then they are doomed.
If you want to grow fruit and vegetables it’s even more important to know your soil. Cabbages for example like the soil to be limed but on the other hand soft fruit such as raspberries would prefer the soil to be neutral or acidic.
My garden is alkaline and heavy clay so I know that plants like rhododendrons, camellias and blue hydrangeas will definitely not thrive at all unless I keep them in containers. I’ve kept Rhododendron ‘Albert Schweitzer’ containerised for the past twelve years. Its final one is a large pond where it looks beautiful in a corner of my wildlife/woodland garden with its magnificent pink flower heads in late spring.