Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For days of auld lang syne

Robert Burns.

By Gordon the Gardener

The month of January is one of excitement for the gardener looking forward to making this year’s produce better than that from the last.

Hopes are high for an improvement in vegetable crops and flowers; a better, greener lawn and fruit; and for those gardeners who also keep bees, a better crop of honey. And I know there are some very good beekeepers in the district around Huddersfield. A single hive can produce from 15lb to 20lb of honey.

January is when gardeners begin to sow seed in the greenhouse. But make sure the inside of the greenhouse has been thoroughly cleaned before you begin. Regular cleaning of the windows outside will let more light in.

If electricity is available seed can be sown in boxes of John Innes seed compost and placed in a heated propagator or on a heat mat set at 65F (18C). The greenhouse temperature should be set lower at around 50F (10C).

Grow lamps can be worth the modest investment

I also have a low energy LED purple grow lamp over the propagator on a timer during daylight hours, to give supplementary lighting for growth. Time the light to give 10-12 hours of light. But plants need at least eight hours of dark as well.

Grow lamps can be had for as little as £29 up to hundreds of pounds for larger ones.

Seeds can be sown early to good advantage including sweet peas; geraniums; dahlias; delphiniums; basil; begonias tuberous and bedding types; chillies and aubergines; petunias and anthuriums.

READ MORE: The stunning garden that’s perched on a Huddersfield hillside 1,000ft above sea level

An early beginning with these and you’re ahead of the game. Later sowings can be made but sow early for the best advantage.

Towards the end of the month start to bring in pots of spring flowering bulbs such as narcissus ‘Tête-à-tête’ into the greenhouse. A few at a time will ensure a continuous supply right into spring. Autumn-rooted fuchsias and pelargonium cuttings can also be potted on.

Out of doors or indoor grapevines need to be pruned whilst still dormant. I prune mine back to two to three eyes. Hard pruning will produce strong growth but no fruit.

READ MORE: Catch up on Gordon the Gardener’s monthly blogs HERE

The same principle applies to apple trees. Try and thin them out creating space between the branches. If branches have got too long, take about a third of the length off.

January sees West Country Wassailers fire off shotguns to wake up the apple trees. Branches of the trees are hit as well to encourage the sap to start flowing and to frighten away evil spirits that might be hiding amongst them. 

Some of the prepared drink is poured at the base of the tree and toast, cake or bread put into the branches to feed the good spirits.

But it’s doubtful this happens here. As far as it is known Huddersfield’s very own gardener-in-chief Graham Porter doesn’t fire guns at his apples, he prunes them!

Buddleia (butterfly bush) can be pruned in several ways. The traditional way is to cut the branches hard back to two or three eyes (nodes) this results in strong growth producing large distinctive blossoms displayed in long panicles at the end of the upright stems. 

Another method is to prune lightly into a pear shape to a particular site where the bush has plenty of room. This produces many smaller flowers which cascade over in a mass of colour. I have counted as many as 40 butterflies on such a bush.

Single flowering dahlias will also attract butterflies and are a delightful addition to any garden border. But as I stated last month, order ASAP to avoid disappointment of being sold out. Evergreen shrubs and tender plants are best left until spring.

And if seasonal indulgence has left a bulge on your waistline there’s no need for a trip to the gym. Get out in the garden or allotment and get some winter deep digging done.

I have grown my neeps and tatties and have a freshly shot haggis all ready for Burns Night on Tuesday January 25!

Happy gardening in 2022, one and all.